Diverse crowd competes in inaugural Tri Fest

NAWILIWILI — Maliana Kaui and the 2011 International Garden Isle Tri Fest shared one thing in common — both enjoyed the event for the first time.

The Garden Isle Tri Fest opened this weekend at Kalapaki Bay to several hundred athletes, ranging from 7-years-olds to experienced tri-athletes.

Kelvin Moniz — the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank operations manager, one of two charitable beneficiaries of the inaugural event — said Tri Fest was designed to attract a more international field of participants to enjoy the island.

Moniz was helping at the transition area, Sunday, the second day of the event.

Despite the full schedule of other athletic events on the community calendar, Moniz said the C4 Waterman Kalapaki Paddleboard Challenge attracted a good-sized field with several “photo finishes” giving spectators a thrill.

Also scheduled on Saturday were a 10K Run, a 5K Fun Run/Walk and the Kids  Duathlon.

“We attended the Skills Clinic with JJ Johnson, the event producer, Saturday,” Kaui said. “It was kind of practice for the Sunday triathlon.”

Sunday morning triathlons hit the waters in staggered starts outside the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club from as early as 7 a.m. The event was broken down for kids ages 7 to 10, youth ages 11 to 15, juniors ages 16 to 19, a sprint duathlon, sprint triathlon and Olympic triathlon.

“It was fun,” said Kaui, who competed in the youth group following her birthday on March 4. “The swim portion was fun. I had fun on the bike portion although some of the hills were a little tough. But my favorite part was the run because I like to run.”

Mele Kaui, Maliana’s mother, said she’s been swimming to condition for the event, and picked up a sponsorship from the Philippine Island Hawai‘i Island bicycle group who provided her with a PIHI team shirt and paid for her carbo party Friday night.

“This is her first triathlon and I am very excited for her,” Mele said. “It is new for us. She has had to learn a lot about this event in a short time, and I’m sure there is a lot more to learn.”

Mele said in addition to PIHI, she got help from Coconut Coasters who rented Maliana the bike for that portion.

“Coconut Coasters is starting to bring in road bikes and we were lucky because they helped us by allowing us to rent the bike so Maliana could get some training,” Mele said. “I think she’ll tell me on the way home if she’s going to participate in the Kaua‘i Loves You event, a fundraiser for the Swim Kaua‘i Aquatics swimming program and the YMCA of Kaua‘i.”

Leo McCarthy, a veteran of that event last year, said he participated in the Tri Fest’s sprint triathlon.

“I had a good time,” the Kalihiwai resident said. “This is their inaugural event here so we have to support them because it takes a couple of years before it catches on.”

Some of the major sponsors for the inaugural event include the County of Kaua‘i, the Rotary Club of Kapa‘a, the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort, Grove Farm and Wilcox Health.

Visit www.gardenisletrifest.com for more information.


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