Paddlers set to see the sights during Saturday’s Na Pali Race

We live in a world of exponentially increasing information and access. But sometimes remoteness is what can make things around us unique and beautiful.

“There is no access except by boat or air,” said Evan Valiere regarding Kauai’s majestic Na Pali Coast. That characteristic is what he says helps make the annual Na Pali Race something out of the ordinary and an adventure.

This Saturday is the seventh annual Na Pali Race, which Valiere has organized since its inception. It allows paddlers of all disciplines a chance to compete in this one of a kind competition along this one of a kind coastline, which they might otherwise never experience.

“The goal of this event has always been the same since day one — to create an elite paddle race and charity event,” said Valiere. “Trying to keep the prestige of the event up there with the top racers, as well as being a bucket list event for all the non-competitive folks who love to be out on the ocean. The goal is to raise as much funds and awareness as possible for the Na Pali Coast ‘Ohana, who protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources along the Na Pali Coast State Park.”

Registration is still open for Sunday and Valiere is expecting a good turnout, though many participants always wait until the last minute to sign up. Working through the minutiae of organizing the race has been a yearly undertaking for Valiere, who spends the majority of his time with Hanalei Surf School, also competing in most of the WSL Qualifying Series surf contests around Hawaii.

“Organizing has definitely gotten easier,” he said. “I am more stream lined for sure, but there are always changes and hurdles that have to be taken care of in the process. No matter what, it takes a lot of time.”

At almost 17 miles in length, the course traverses southwest from Haena to Polihale. The winds always play a significant role in just how strenuous the course can be on race day. Some years have been beautiful and gusty, but a lack of trades can make it much tougher on the paddlers.

“The wind is usually hard to predict the exact strength and we are a little bit far out,” said Valiere. “But as of now, conditions look very ideal with a pretty solid trade wind. If the forecast holds, it will be a great down wind run.”

Bragging rights are certainly at stake, but each participant receives an event t-shirt, a sweatshirt hoodie and food and drink at the awards presentation. There will also be trophies and grass roots prizes for the division winners.

Valiere got in on the act last year, participating with the rest of the competitors for the first time. But he’ll be back in administration mode this time around.

“I love being out there in the race paddling down the Na Pali Coast and I know I am going to wish I was when I see the conditions on Saturday and everyone else out there,” he said. “But it’s just too much to take on. I’d rather have everything go smooth for the participants and be there to greet them at the finish line.”

A lot of the help Valiere receives comes from sponsors who donate to this charitable effort. A whole host have lined up to lend their names and contributions, including Hanalei Surf School, Capt. Andy’s Sailing, RVCA, Riviera Paddlesurf, Kalapaki Joe’s, Reside Kauai, Aloha Exchange, Oliver Design Studios, Na Pali Kayak, Purps, WOW Sup Hawaii, Oakley, Scovel Surfboards Kauai and Tamba Surf Company.

“Every one of them helps to make this a great event,” Valiere said.

Spectators who wish to see the beginning or end of the race can head to Haena Beach Park for the opening ceremony, Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Paddlers will then hit the water in waves at noon, typically taking between two and four hours to reach the finish line at Polihale Beach Park.

Registration and contest information is available at napalirace.com, as well as the Na Pali Race Facebook page. Information on donating to the Na Pali Coast ‘Ohana can be found at napali.org.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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