LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i paddlers are heading to the International Va’a Federation World Sprints in London after strong performances at the outrigger World Sprints Trials on O‘ahu this weekend.
“It was just a perfect race for us as a crew,” said Annie McVeety Allen, a Lihu‘e resident who paddles with Kaiola Canoe Club, which placed first in the over-60 division.
“All of our races have been canceled because of COVID,” said Allen. “So when the trip to Europe came up the competition was really stiff. To take a victory was huge for us — it was epic.”
The team, coached by Laola Aea and made up of members from three different canoe clubs — Kaiola, Hanalei and Kukui‘ula — finished with a time of 2.00.09.
Hanalei resident Steve Cole qualified for the world sprints both individually and with the 60s crew from the Na Molokama Canoe Club that he coaches.
“The wind was swirling, but the conditions were nice and light,” said Cole, who got off to an early lead in his individual sprint and finished with a time of 2.01.49.
He relied on a tip from some other competitors to keep the boat straight during the trials.
“There were so many different colors behind the finish line, so we couldn’t really see the flags,” said Cole. “I picked out a big red building in the middle of my lane and I just kept on that.”
Paddling is a lifelong passion for Cole, who started when he was 12 and has continued for the last 52 years. Cole was born in London — though he moved to Hawai‘i at nine months old—and is excited to return home.
“I feel relief, because I’m the steerer and it feels like it’s my race to lose,” said Kalaheo resident Laola Aea, who represented Kaua‘i on the island masters team, which won the 70s division. “They’re so used to winning gold. Every sprint, they’ve brought home gold. It was a lot of pressure.”
The inter-island squad posted a time of 2.03.65, competitive with many of the younger teams. Aea, credited her teams’ focus, mental toughness and experience as the keys to their strong showing.
Two other paddlers in the 70s division from Na Molokama Canoe Club placed in the individual races.
A youth crew from Kilohana Canoe Club, led by coach Kaina Makua, also performed well in the trials, grabbing second in the under-19 womens’ division and qualifying for the world sprints.
Ella Beck took first place in the individual under-19 race and Kahiau Makua won the under-16. Beck, who rows for Gonzaga University and got special clearance from the NCAA to race in the trials, finished with a time of 2.15.06, while Makua posted a 2.12.04. Kaleikaumaka Makua also notched a third-place qualifying finish in the open women’s individual race.
Qualifying paddlers will compete at the International Va’a Federation World Sprints in London in August 2022.
“I’ve been to the World Sprints before, but never with this good of a crew,” said Allen. “I think we can take gold.”
Full results of the trials can be found at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association website.
Source: The Garden Island