Waikoloa Canoe Club
Some wa‘a are still built in this traditional fashion, notably the Hōkūle`a and the Big Island’s own Makali`i, which have faithfully replicated those early double-hulled canoes used by ancestral Hawaiians, and have made numerous voyages around the Pacific.
But the greater majority of outrigger canoes these days are made of fiberglass and used by racing teams as well as recreational paddlers, including an increasing number of keiki (youth). Daniel Legler is the head coach of Waikoloa Canoe Club, an organization whose mission is to “strengthen family and community relationships, improve ourselves both mentally and physically, help eliminate social differences, create positive interdependence, and help preserve local customs and traditions by perpetuating the sport of outrigger canoe racing.”
Based on the beach at Anaeho‘omalu Bay in front of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, and adjacent to Lava Lava Beach Club, Legler was named head coach in February. “Most of the keiki are from the Waikoloa community with some from Waimea,” Legler says. “Paddling is a great way for them to learn about the Hawaiian culture, learn about the ocean, and have some fun at the same time. When they start at that age, paddling becomes part of who they are, part of what they carry with them through life.”
Of the 200 or so paid members of Waikoloa Canoe Club, Legler estimates 30- 40 are keiki (aged 5-10 years old) and most of those are girls. In addition to the keiki and `ohana (recreational) programs, Legler also oversees the Club’s racing programs.
“There has been phenomenal support from local paddlers for a new focus on racing,” he says. “A lot of people wanted to see us be more competitive.”
With an extensive paddling resume that over the past two racing seasons includes winning the Lili`uokalani Masters title and the State Masters Long Distance Championship at the Henry Ayau Memorial, and placing high in the Hawaii State Masters Regatta Championship and the Moloka`i Hoe Masters World Title, Legler says his experience in these events, participating alongside master paddlers, changed his perspective.
“I learned so much about technique and culture,” he says, “but also about respect for the ocean, how to understand the waves and the weather. It is a humbling sport.”