Local outrigger crew to take on Big Apple

KOLOA — Six of Kauai’s own are headed for the East Coast.

Local outrigger paddling crew Na Wahine O Wailua will compete at the Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge hosted by New York Outrigger, which begins Saturday.

“I have not done this race before. It will be the first time. I’m excited,” said Na Wahine O Wailua crew member Janet Nathanson on Sunday morning at Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor.

Na Wahine O Wailua is comprised of members from two local clubs — four from Puuwai and two from Kukuiula.

“It will be fun. I’ve done New York before,” said crew member Judy Byfield of Puuwai over the phone Sunday. “And it’s really cool because (Hawaiian voyaging canoe) Hokulea is going to be there, and its our Kamehameha Day.”

The course is 15 miles long on the Hudson River. Crews will start at and make their way back to Pier 26 at Hudson River Park in Tribeca, along Manhattan’s west side.

“I had it on my bucket list. It’s kind of cool to paddle around the Statue of Liberty — the symbol of our country — and to meld the Hawaiian culture and traditions of outrigger canoeing with our county,” Nathanson said, a member of Kukuiula. “It’s just a really cool, unique experience.”

Along the course, crews will paddle nearby the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Governor’s Island and Ellis Island.

“Hopefully, we’ll do OK. That’s our goal,” Byfield said. “Paddling by the Statue of Liberty and all that is very cool. Ellis Island, my grandparents came in Ellis Island, you know? So, it’s good fun.”

Numerous outrigger canoe clubs from around the world, including Panama, Dubai, Canada, Australia, Brazil and the United States, will flock to New York to take part — as well as several teams from Hawaii.

The six-woman crew from Kauai has been training together for the past two months preparing for New York.

“You start out trying to go get your technique together. You go slow, trying to blend and everybody finds their right position in the canoes because each seat has a different role,” Nathanson said. “We seemed to be comfortable right away when we started out. Then, it was just (about) putting in the miles.”

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