Na Pali Race ready to roll

The fourth annual Na Pali Race takes place this Sunday with a 17-mile sojourn from Haena to Polihale, sending stand-up paddlers, prone paddlers and one or two-person canoes down the majestic Na Pali coast. The event, which is also a benefit for the Na Pali Coast Ohana, has grown in popularity and sponsorships during its four-year tenure. Whether or not it will again grow in number of entrants is still undetermined, as people have historically waited until the last minute to complete the registration process.

Is that the case again this year?

“It’s definitely the case!” said event organizer Evan Valiere. “Every time before the event, I’m just going ‘I did all this work, is anybody going to even show up?’ So, yeah, it’s really hard to tell until the last day of registration.”

All that work includes six different required permits, insurance issues, sponsor requests, as well as the logistics of sending people from one end of the island to the other and the boats and lifeguards to ensure everyone’s safety.

Valiere is also uncertain as to what attendance figures will look like due to the full slate of this weekend’s events for paddlers of all varieties. On Saturday, Hanalei will be hosting the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association’s state championship. Sunday will then host the 16th annual Na Pali Challenge, which is a 39-mile canoe race from Hanalei to the Waimea Pier.

“The plan was originally that the state canoe races were coming to Hanalei and there were going to be thousands upon thousands of paddlers on Saturday and then on Sunday they were going to do the Na Pali Challenge. We were invited to go on the same day because there wouldn’t be enough canoes to go into the Na Pali Challenge to host all the paddlers from the islands, so it was going to be more reasonable for them to send a one-man canoe, a paddleboard or a prone paddleboard to still experience the Na Pali. That’s why we joined together in the first place.”

It was a reasonable solution, which will allow all the visiting athletes an opportunity to paddle the Na Pali in one way or another. Though, as Valiere said, ideally, most of the paddlers on Kauai would like the opportunity to paddle both events.

This year’s Na Pali Race will feature a prize pool of $13,000 for 2013, the largest it has offered. The prizes will be spread among the top finishers for each paddling discipline.

Sunday will begin with the Pule, or blessing, from Na Pali Coast Ohana’s Kelvin Ho at 9 a.m. at Haena Beach Park. Heats will then go off from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., with the faster paddlers starting later so as to have everyone reach the finish line around the same time.

“Starting in heats in different waves has been a good system, but challenging to figure out at first,” Valiere said. “Now we’ve got it pretty dialed in.”

Paddlers are expected to reach Polihale between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. They will then head over to the Kekaha Neighborhood Center at 4:30 p.m. until dark for an awards ceremony and to let their muscles relax.

Last year was a very challenging day for the paddlers, due to virtually no wind. This year should be much better, if current trade conditions remain steady through the weekend. So while none of the event’s record times were broken last year, this year could change that fact.

A pair of Kauai women currently hold two of the course records. Kanesa Duncan-Seraphin holds the women’s prone paddleboard record with a time of 3 hours, 52 seconds in 2011. Mariko Strickland has the women’s stand-up record with a time of 3:09:17, also in 2011.

Livio Manelau, originally from Brazil and currently on Maui, holds the men’s stand-up record with a swift 2:22:30 finish in 2010. California’s Hogan Kania is the men’s prone record holder with a 2:55:09 in 2011.

Valiere gives big mahalos to all the local sponsors who continue to allow this elite race and charity event to function at a high level.

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