KOA paddlers celebrate success at states

LIHUE — Fresh off a successful showing at the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state paddling championships in Hilo, the Niumalu Canoe Club gathered Thursday in celebration.

“It was really intense because we didn’t know how good they were going to be,” said Niumalu Girls 16 and under paddler Charel Landford about the state regatta. “It was really exciting, and I felt relieved because I saw that we passed them.”

The club’s Girls 16 and under crew won first place at states.

“It was pretty tough in Lane 1. There was lots of waves,” said Niumalu paddler Kiani Souza, who is also part of the 16 and under crew that finished first.

“It was really up-and-up with the other canoes,” Souza said. “It was kind of surprising in a way. … It felt good because we proved ourselves up there.”

Thursday’s gathering at the Niumalu clubhouse at Kalapaki Beach was farewell party. Souza is moving to Oahu and will enroll at Kamehameha Schools–Kapalama for her senior year. In addition for paddling for the club, she’s also competed the last three years for Kauai High School, her last at the varsity level.

Souza said she’s wanted to go to the Oahu school for “a really long time” and plans to try out for the paddling team.

“It’s sad because I’m leaving everything. … But I’m going to come back next year and paddle for the club,” she said. “I made so many friends at my school. Not being able to graduate with them and start over, that’s the toughest part. And leaving my family.”

Four clubs represented the Kauai Outrigger Association at states last weekend— Niumalu, Hanalei, Kilohana and Puuwai.

Hanalei claimed the top prize in the Women’s Open 4 race. The same crew won first place at states on Oahu in 2012.

“It was a long wait, and it was pretty rainy and windy all day in the bay,” said Hanalei Women’s Open 4 paddler Sarah Zietz. “We were trying to warm up, but we were just sitting there.”

She added she wasn’t sure if she and the others could win states again, but is happy they did.

“We had doubts. I’ve had a son since then. It was like we didn’t know if we had the same spark as we did,” Zietz said. “But I guess we still got it.”

Hanalei also took second in the Men’s Open 4. The club also placed eighth in the Men Master 60, 12th in the Girls 13 and under, sixth in the Girls 14 and under, 12th in the Women’s Novice B, eighth in the Men Novice B, eighth in the Girls 15 and under, ninth in the Women’s Golden Masters 55, eighth in the Senior Women’s Masters and sixth in the Mixed Men and Women’s races.

Niumalu took 12th in the Boys 12 and under, 13th in the Boys 13 and under, 13th in the Girls 15 and under, eighth in the Girls 18 and under and 11th in the Boys 18 and under races.

Kilohana finished fourth in the Mixed 12 and under and third in the Girls 13 and under races.

Puuwai placed 13th in the Girls 12 and under race.

“All the other crews got medal packs. Everybody was happy,” Zietz said.

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