Sailing the sunny skies from Kualoa to Haleiwa, Team OluKai embarked on this year’s Annual 2-day wa`a (canoe) race, though this year served an unanticipated challenge. Handedly winning the first day of the competition, the 6-man crew took an early lead Day 2 with mirrored mental focus and refreshed physical stamina. However, adversity quickly found Team OluKai in the form of an incongruent, ravaging wave dealing severe damage to their ama.

 

Quickly recovering sound structure to their ship, the crew found themselves bumped to sixth place. Thankfully, in the sport of outrigger canoeing concentration and strength alone don’t earn you the lead, synchronicity is the deciding factor. Hand to paddle, one crew member said, “we pull together and finish the race.” Without hesitation, all members of Team OluKai paddled harmoniously back to competitive standing, passing each boat that had cruised by during their skirmish with the ocean.

 

Nearing Kahuku Point, the team utilized shifting wind patterns to keep the bandaged ama out of the water, a tactic deservedly placing them back in their original first place position. Kawela Bay, Kaunala Stream, Sharks Cove and Waimea Bay were practically the only obstacles in their way. In most cases, the trade winds would push the canoe straight to victory at Haleʻiwa finish line; however, sailing down wind was not the case for Team OluKai. The crew anticipated that the downwind push would re-level the boat, dragging the unsteady ama through the currents and wrecking it once again. It was too risky to compromise such a crucial part of the wa`a, so the six men quickly adjusted their weight distribution and realigned their sail according to more suitable wind patterns. With the second place team gaining way, these necessary concessions immediately bumped OluKai out of their first place position.

Having already overcome one major setback and consistent conflict, the team squared their vessel on a starboard tack and reharmonized their rhythm, which allowed them to quickly retake the lead and win the race.

 

Team OluKai steersman Mike Field had this to share: “Winning this race, given the constant challenges, was beyond sweet. The crew responded to each challenge in the moment and “in sync” with each other and the canoe. What could have been a disaster turned into the most satisfying experience.”

 

“In winning, we were given the Ka’au Mckenney Award. Ka’au was a dear friend to all of us Ocean Athletes, he died tragically at Makapuu Lighthouse in 2011. I am extremely grateful to my crew and the people at Olukai for believing in us.”