The best & the beautiful

LIHUE — Garden Island Canoe Racing Association officials say two North Shore paddling competitions scheduled for this weekend — the Na Pali Coast Challenge and Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship — are expected to attract thousands of people.

“It’s going to be a very busy weekend out there,” GICRA event coordinator Pomaikai Kane said.

The first event, scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday at the Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, will be this year’s annual Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship, which will feature at least 3,400 paddlers from about 60 clubs statewide.

Puuwai Canoe Club President Brian Curll said the event will feature 41 six-person outrigger canoe races and 14 lanes that will range in length from a quarter of a mile to a mile and a half and run parallel to the beach.

Kaiola Canoe Club member Pepe Trask said the state championship is only hosted on Kauai every six years and is culturally important, since it is the only race where only koa canoes are permitted to race in it.

The men, women and keiki competing in the races, Trask said, are among the best in the state and are top winners from each island in their respective age and distance divisions.

Many of the 400-pound canoes in the race, he said, date back at least 75 years and will be weighed on Friday to ensure that no modern materials are used and traditional practices are upheld.

“This is the only time that you’re going to be able to see 14 lanes of koa canoes racing in Hanalei Bay,” Trask said. “This is going to be an opportunity to see the best and most beautiful Hawaiian canoes in the world, because they don’t exist anywhere else.”  

To help accommodate traffic through the area, GICRA will provide a free shuttle service throughout the day from Waioli Beach Park to Hanalei Pavilion.

GICRA will also provide free Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible transportation and parking at the Old Hanalei Court House.

Pomaikai Kane, a GICRA event coordinator, said no parking will allowed along roadways or the back roads of Hanalei throughout the day on Saturday. Access onto Aku, Mahimahi and Weke Roads will also be limited to residents, some anglers and official pass holders only.

“Parking is going to be non-existent,” Trask said. “People can take their cars down there but all that’s going to do is create more havoc.”

Hanalei-Haena Community Association President Joel Guy said he is also encouraging residents and visitors staying in a home around Weke Road to carry a copy of a document with their address on it, such as a rental agreement or utility bill, if they plan to leave and return to the area while the tournament is going on.

The competition out on the water continues at 8 a.m. Sunday, when GICRA will host its annual 39-mile Na Pali Challenge in which 12-person teams from all over the world will compete in a 6-person outrigger canoe race from Hanalei Bay to Waimea Pier.

Curll said each team, which will consist of six men and six women, will stop and rotate paddlers every 30 minutes with six other members traveling on escort boats.

Both events this weekend, Trask said, will not only host and showcase some of the best paddlers in the state and world, but also allow people to experience the beauty of the island.

“Kauai makes up less than 10 percent of the state’s population, so many of the local people from the other islands have never been here before — this will be a first time for them,” Trask said. “There are definite pluses to it as far as the immediate economic impact is concerned. It’s really a great opportunity.”

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or

HANALEI  — The Garden Island Canoe Racing Association will be hosting the annual State Canoe Championships this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hanalei Beach.

To accommodate the event and mitigate traffic impacts to the surrounding area, the Kaua’i Police Department will be implementing a change in traffic patterns on Saturday, from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Traffic will be one-way only on Aku Road, from the Papio Road junction heading makai toward Weke Road. Weke Road will be one-way, from Aku Road to Mahimahi Road; and Mahimahi Road will one-way, from Weke Road toward Kuhio Highway. Motorists will not be allowed to enter Mahimahi Road from Kuhio Highway and will need to access the area through Aku Road.

Officers and event organizers will also be manning a partial closure of Weke Road, from the Hanalei Pavilion to Black Pot Beach. Access will be limited to motorists with event-issued parking passes and fisherman with boats and trailers wishing to access the small boat ramp.

Local residents will be allowed through road closures but should be prepared to show identification or proof of residency.

Motorists should allow additional time to get to their destinations as traffic delays are expected.


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