Kauai paddler honored at inaugural memorial race

POIPU — What was previously called the Kukuiula Classic is now renamed for a man who loved the sport and loved Kauai.

The Kukuiula Outrigger Canoe Club hosted the inaugural Mike Balik Memorial Outrigger Canoe Race on Saturday.

Nine outrigger canoe clubs from the island participated in the event at the Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor in remembrance of Balik who passed away in September from leukemia.

“We definitely wanted to make a race special for him because he was a do anything (guy). He would always ask what you wanted to do and if you needed help or anything,” said Kukuiula club president Mark Jacobson. “He wasn’t picky like, ‘I don’t want to be with this group.’ He was just glad to paddle. We wanted to memorialize him because he was a pretty good guy and he helped out with everything.”

A portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“(We wanted to) just to help research,” said Kukuiula club member Diana Leone who raced in the Senior Masters 50+ Women division. “If a seemingly perfectly healthy person, in fact a very healthy person, could (die so suddenly), it’s something worth finding out. Is there a cure for this? Is there a way people can be helped?”

Among the nine clubs was the Memorial Crew comprised of Balik’s longtime crew mates who wanted to paddle together and honor their friend.

“None of us are any longer a member of a six-man crew. We just wanted to participate in the event in order to honor Mike’s memory,” said Memorial Crew member Phil Zeidner of Kalaheo. “We didn’t really have a formal plan. We just wanted to make sure we were here.

“It was a little windy today going up. It was a fairly normal day blowing a little hard going up. Some nice bumps coming back down. Mike would have liked that,” Zeidner added.

Balik’s wife, Egie, was in attendance and said she was “overwhelmed with feelings of joy and sorrow all at the same time.”

“I am so grateful and touched by the love that is shown for Mike,” Egie said. “I’m sure Mike is looking down today and really being grateful also. Maybe even a little surprised because he was a pretty humble guy when it came to taking credit for anything and hearing all these accolades. 

“It was a wonderful tribute. I don’t think I could ever, ever fully thank everyone for everything that they’ve done. I know that this was a huge undertaking,” she added.

Zeidner, who paddled with Balik for about 10 years, said the event itself was an “expression of love.”

“Guys usually show love in fairy crude ways. That’s the truth. You love them, but you can’t use the word,” Zeidner said. “He was just part of our being here and it leaves a hole. Learning how to live with loss and learning how to hand over what we have learned and what we love to the next generation is kind of what we have left.

“There aren’t very good words. We’re all at the age where we’re losing friends. We’ve lost family. We’re losing friends. We very much value the time that we had with each other and the time that we have left with each other,” he added.

Donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society can be made on behalf on Balik at http://sdhi.lls.llsevent.org/MikeBalikMemorial or at the club website at www.kukuiulaoutrigger.com.

An open sunset memorial for Balik will be held on Sunday, August 17. Email Egie at luvmyzee@gmail.com for information.

Award recipients

First place: Mike Balik Memorial Crew (1:13:49)

Senior Masters 50+ women

First place: Kukuiula (1:12:07)

Open Women

First place: Niamalu (1:05:54)

Second place: Puuwai (1:07:58)

Third place: Kukuiula (1:09:14)

Mixed novice

First place: West Kauai (1:04:08)

Mixed Masters 40+

First place: West Kauai (1:07:45)

Men Golden Masters 55+

First place: Kaiola (1:24:38)

Men Senior Masters 50+

First place: Puuwai (1:36:43)

Men Masters 40+

First place: Puuwai (1:11:34)

Unlimited division

First place: Puuwai (0:58:40)

Open Men

First place: Puuwai (1:06:09)

Second place: Kukuiula (1:13:37)

Third place: Puuwai (1:13:47)

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