Be Like Mike

“Sometimes life isn’t fair” is something Mike Balik would say if someone was complaining about the cards life dealt them.

Yet, even when the 71-year-old Kauai resident got the shocking diagnosis of leukemia last August, he didn’t complain, said Emilie Balik, his wife of 46 years. Seven weeks from his diagnosis, he was dead.

Balik was such a “physical fitness nut” that his Mayo Clinic doctor said he had the body of a 45-year-old, but aggressive chemotherapy didn’t kill the cancer. 

“From there on he went down so quick it was mind-boggling,” Emilie Balik said. “I hope that nobody ever has to go through what Mike has gone through.”

To honor Balik and raise money and awareness for blood cancer research, Kukuiula Outrigger Canoe Club of Poipu has renamed its former Kukuiula Klassic race as the Mike Balik Memorial Outrigger Canoe Race.

The Garden Island Canoe Racing Association-sanctioned event on Saturday, July 5, will start from Kukuiula Harbor with registration 7 to 8 a.m.; a pule and dedication at 8:30 a.m.and races at 9 and 11 a.m.

Crews will receive a race jersey and lunch as part of their $120 fee. Spectators can buy jerseys, rubber memorial wrist bands and food and drink, as well as make donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and pick up brochures about blood cancers.

Before retiring to Kauai in 2005, Balik flew airplanes professionally for 44 years – in the Air Force, the New Jersey National Guard and as a corporate jet pilot. In addition to his wife, the Clifton, N.J., native is survived by two daughters, five grandchildren and a brother.

Mrs. Balik said she was surprised when canoe club members told her the race was on. 

“I thank everybody for having this love and admiration and for keeping his memory alive,” she said. “When retired, he didn’t want to travel any more. He felt a spiritual connection to Kauai. He’d never leave the island if he didn’t have to.”


WHAT: Mike Balik Memorial Outrigger Canoe Race, put on by Kukuiula Outrigger Canoe Club

WHEN: Saturday, July 5, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor; course to be determined on race day

WHY: To honor a Kauai canoe paddler, who loved the sport, Kauai and its people; and to raise funds and awareness about blood cancers.

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE: This is a Garden Island Canoe Racing Association-sanctioned race for six-man outrigger canoes. Divisions for men, women and mixed crews: novice, open, masters, senior masters and golden masters. Jerseys, memorial rubber wrist bands, food and drinks will be available for sale to spectators.

COST: $120 per crew, includes six memorial race jerseys and lunch for the crew.

HOW TO CONTRIBUTE TO BLOOD CANCER RESEARCH: Donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society can be made in Mike Balik’s memory via the organization’s website at: 


CONTACT: Fran McDonald, vice president, Kukuiula Outrigger Canoe Club, (808) 635-0165 or


7-8 a.m. – Registration at Kukuiula Harbor Pavilion

8:15 a.m. – Steersman and coaches’ meeting

8:30 a.m. – Pule and dedication

9 a.m. – Start of Wahine and mixed races

11 a.m. – Start of Kane races

1-3 p.m. – Lunch and awards ceremony

SPONSORS: Suite Paradise and Poipu Kai


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