Kauai spirit on display in Hanalei

I still distinctly remember the first sporting event I ever attended on Kauai. It was my first day of work at The Garden Island in April of 2009 and I rode with Paul Curtis out to Hanapepe Stadium for the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship baseball game.

Besides it being an exciting game between Waimea and Kauai High, the thing that stuck out most to me was the energy and enthusiasm from the stands. Family members, friends, fellow students were all hanging on every pitch and constantly voicing (and cowbelling) their support.

It immediately gave me a better understanding of what Kauai is all about and how this community gets behind one another.

Saturday morning was the Garden Island Canoe Racing Association’s 2013 sprint race championship at Hanalei Bay. That same Kauai spirit was on display and was what really stood out to someone like me, who had no real rooting interest in terms of who came in first or fourth.

The sand was lined with tents, much like the scene for a surf competition. Except instead of boards and leashes up and down the shoreline, there was a seemingly endless array of paddles and canoes, all bearing the colors and names of their respective clubs.

Over the public address system, different categories of paddlers were being announced as the current and upcoming heats, letting everyone know just who was in those distant canoes out by the yellow flag.

Once the heats began, so did the cheers. Each of the four represented clubs made sure as best they could that their participants heard their support, hoping it might provide just enough extra energy and drive to push them that much closer to the finish line.

I never would have thought to attend a canoe regatta growing up. My understanding of what “sports” were was whatever was on TV the most and if I could buy packs of its players on trading cards. But I have to say, these types of events are now probably the most fun for me as an attendee. Admittedly, I have little to no critical knowledge when it comes to paddling, other than the first team across the finish line is usually the winner.

But the GICRA championship day, as a whole, had less to do with analysis and results and much more to do with a community gathering and participating in something together. The keiki ran around the beach, competed in their heats, then got back in the water to swim below the hot mid-day sun or hit the food booth for some local grinds. Parents and adult teammates sat in their tents or stood at the water’s edge, endlessly chatting and talking story with whoever was closest.

I was most happy to see a number of tourists along the sand, most of whom I’m sure never expected to find a regatta taking up a huge portion of Hanalei Bay. But rather than feeling as if their day at the beach was somewhat compromised, I’m sure they got a better understanding of what Kauai is about, away from the typical tourist destinations and hula shows.

So I want to give a big mahalo to all of you for continuing to let me witness that same enthusiasm and goodwill that I saw my first day at TGI. I thank you for being who you are, because it isn’t like this everywhere.

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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