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History of Kanaka

In 2008, a small group of experienced paddlers realized they were being aged out. The outrigger clubs they belonged to weren’t interested in supporting solid Golden Master programs. These six men were good athletes, not ready to hang up their paddles. What to do? They decided to create their own club, a club specifically for older athletes. Great idea, but without any real funding, they had a big job ahead. 

Randy Peterson, a charismatic powerhouse in the outrigger community, knew a guy who knew a guy, so to speak. First, he secured a kind of permanent loan of two ancient six-man canoes. Finding a site was a harder nut to crack. The original Kanaka had a name for themselves and a dream. They queried the city and the Port District about finding a patch of waterfront land. But to no avail. Then, one day while working out at his gym, Randy was telling a friend about the hunt for a place to call home when he heard a voice behind him.

A guy working out on another machine overheard Randy’s conversation. He said, “I might have a place for you.”

The helpful stranger ran a business in one of the offices behind the current Kanaka site. If Randy and his crew were willing to do the hard work of clearing scrub and filling in a sliver of tidal muck, they could set up the new club right by those offices in Liberty Station. Were they willing to work? Heck yeah!

The original six went to work. Along the way, they recruited six more long-time watermen. They spent countless hours chopping scrub and lifting rocks, shoveling sand, and building cradles for the canoes. By the 2009 SCORA race season, Kanaka OCC was ready and grateful for the help of other clubs in the community. That year, we signed up to be a member of SCORA.

Another great advantage to having Randy Peterson be our first club president was his knowledge and love of the Hawaiian traditions of ohana and the ways of outrigger culture. He spoke of “six is one,” when everyone worked together. That philosophy applied not only in paddling but in working together for a healthy community. He knew, understood, and taught even the finer points, such as how to stand a paddle to maintain its mana. Or that the word, Kanaka is like the word deer. One deer, or many deer. One Kanaka, or many Kanaka. 

With time, the club grew, we held silent auctions to raise money for new canoes. At one point, the club agreed to raise dues, a boat fee, for new canoes. 

Of course, certain Kanaka stories became club favorites. Such at the time we paddled out in the rain, which soon became hail. We were able to stop the canoes under the Harbor Drive bridge until the downpour let up. Turns out, one paddler saw hail bouncing off Ernie’s head. From there, the story took off. It has been told so often, it seems everyone saw hail bouncing off his head, even those seated ahead of him in the canoe. 

Another favorite is how Cap’n Mai Tai got his name. At one of our canoe blessings, he set up an adult libation station serving Mai Tai with three levels of alcohol – Keiki, novice, or Iron Man. Newer Kanaka are sometimes shocked to find out he has another name on his driver’s license. 

Today, Kanaka OCC is thriving, a group of older athletes staying vital and fit. We owe our existence to vision, energy, and much goodwill.