Getting the ribbons!

LIHUE—At 4 p.m. on a sunny, tradewind-afternoon, Kaua’i High School Pool is

deserted.

In homes across Kaua’i, MTV is blaring, Sony Playstations are

kicking into gear, and parents are beginning to arrive home, ready to put the

workday behind them.

Next to Kaua’i High pool, the big spool of red and

white lane lines turns slowly as the lines are unwound across the pool deck.

The only sound is of the pool filter humming, and the plastic lines scraping

over concrete.

Kaua’i cyberspace is humming, as phones and modems connect

tender minds to other tender and not-so-tender minds. Junk food circulates

among inert, young bodies parked in front of televisions sets that proclaim

“You can eat anything you want and not exercise if you use this magic diet

supplement.”

One-by-one, anchor rings are screwed into the side of the

pool. The lines are stretched across the water and secured to the anchor rings.

Finally, white, typed pages of meet results are posted in the center of the

pool bulletin board. The lengthening shadows indicate that the evening

activities are soon to begin.

Orlando Anaya, his set-up for Mokihana

Aquatic’s swim practice complete, sits on the low wall next to the entrance to

the pool. A car pulls up, fifteen minutes early for practice. Kapaa Fire

Captain, Mitchell Ikeda and his wife Carol, a special education teacher at

Eleele Elementary arrive, trailed by their eleven year-old daughter,

Torey.

Carol Ikeda is pleased with her daughter’s current interest in

Mokihana. “It’s fun, but it’s structured – the kids are having a great time,

and the parents are all nice.”

The Ikeda’s turn and greet Eileen DuBois and

her twelve-year old daughter Roxanne. Within five minutes the other members of

Mokihana Aquatics have assembled, huddled around photos of the Hilo Meet-their

first-ever.

For Mokihana Aquatics the Hilo Meet signaled the return from an

extended absence on the competitive scene. Although it’s been nine years since

the last time they competed, Mokihana was not only remembered for their

distinctive style, but they made an incredible new impression in their

“comeback”.

Jason Ebesu, who shaved almost nine seconds off his entry time

in the 100 yard breast stroke, gloried in the chance to compete in a

nationally-sanctioned event “It was the chance to be in a real

meet!”

Suddenly the comfortable laughter and talking over the photos gives

way to action, as Orlando Anaya slips into his Coach “O” persona, “Lane Two!”

he says, directing the tall and athletic fifteen year old Erin Emberson to her

lane for the practice. “Come on! Let’s go!

By team consensus, the two

heroes of the Hilo Meet are twelve-year old Katelyn Umetsu, and 10-year old

Keenan KaiKane (“Waterman”) Anaya-the eldest son of Orlando Anaya. During the

practice they are always in close proximity to each other, the alpha female and

male respectively, well-suited to each other’s co-championship.

Umetsu won

a first place in the 50 yard backstroke with a time of 38.84, allowing her to

take a crack at qualifying for the state championships. The younger Anaya took

a total of four first-place ribbons and also made times that allow him to

participate in state-qualifying events. When asked how it was to be the coach’s

son, he says with a shy smile, “Both good and bad. Sometimes he expects me to

go faster than other people.”

For Coach “O”, the meet was a gratifying

reunion with old associates, and a chance to put his inexperienced team to the

test.

“You know, when we got there, they had a brochure that listed current

record-holders for various events. The last time Mokihana competed was in 1991.

We still have six standing records from back then. Here I was, with my young,

hand-picked team, none of whom had ever been in this kind of competition. I was

just blown away, by what they did.”

Anaya erupts into his signature

whistle, a cross between hailing a cab and whistling for an encore at a rock

concert. Ten Heads pop up from the water and all the thrashing in the water

ceases, “Don’t breath on the TURN!” The heads return to face down in the water

and the thrashing resumes. He paces up and down the sideline, looking for flaws

to fix. “Stretch it out! Keep those heads DOWN! More level…flatter! FLATTER!

Go Erin, GO!”

Anaya returned full-time to Mokihana Aquatics, initially with

the Masters Swimmer program for adults and young adults focused on perfecting

personal excellence in swimming. Participants include Kaua’i Firefighters

Maureen Higa and Clyde Weddell; Calvin Umetsu the father of Katelyn, and

Anaya’s wife, Avis. The adults train alongside the youths.

When Higa is

asked if they act as role models for the kids, she defers to the kids, saying

that as fire fighters they draw inspiration from the kids. “We’re supposed to

be in shape, so when we see what these kids are doing then we have to tell

ourselves—if they can do it, we have to be able to do it!.”

Anaya’s

hand-picked crew came to him in various ways last year. Several participated in

Learn-To-Swim programs over the summer; others were recommended to Mokihana by

their High School swim coach, and several others were involved in a “Winning

Spirit Camp” developed by USA Swimming, and conducted by Anaya.

During the

summer of 1999, Anaya issued more than 200 certifications to over a hundred

Kaua’i Youths in the Learn-To-Swim program. His plans for the coming year, view

last summer as a “test-run”. “We intend to triple that number this year, and to

expand the swim team to several times its current size.”

Anaya, a former

champion bodysurfer and life-long water safety advocate has been in the

forefront of water safety education for the Kaua’i community and for the state

at large. At the age of 19, having been a protégé of renowned

waterman “Uncle” Bob Via, Anaya began teaching Kaua’i Keiki to swim at Hanalei

Pier.

Over the years, Anaya has taught several generations of school

children swimming skills and has developed a reputation for staying abreast of

the most current knowledge in aquatics, maintaining high standards, high-energy

and an excellent rapport with children and adults alike. Anaya laments the fact

that he is the only certified coach on the island, with a nationally affiliated

team.

“We need more competition and opportunities for kids all over

Kaua’i. Lihu’e is a long drive for people in Hanalei, Waimea and Po’ipu but

there are some great prospects for competitive swimmers in those

areas.”

It’s almost seven o’clock, and the area lights cast refracted

illumination into the puddles surrounding the pool.

“Don’t you owe me 500

yards?!” shouts Anaya to a swimmer that has paused.

13-year old, Tianna

Caylor, shivers while she is interviewed. Caylor, who was too young for her

high school team, won a third and fourth place ribbon in Hilo. “Practice is

really good, but sometimes I feel really, really tired and sore…and I feel

OLD!”

When asked why she keeps coming back, she mentions that it’s a chance

to hang out with her friends, have different experiences and indulge her love

for the water. When pressed, however, she admits what her favorite part of

swimming is “Getting the ribbons”.

Finally, wet shivering bodies emerge

from the water to take comfort in thick towels, as family groups assemble.

Andrew Ellis a scuba instructor with SeaSport Divers, has arrived to pick up

his step-daughter, Tianna.

Ellis thinks Mokihana has a very effective

program, noting that, “They have a good facility, their coach is intelligent

and he knows how to motivated children. That’s something not many people can

do.”

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