Kia orana and I guess we can say now, ALOHA!
I, Jordan, have been given the gracious task of giving you all a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of our travels to Hawaii, as well as a little recap on our first race at the Queen Liliuokalani Outrigger Canoe Race event.
For one of the first times of this whole process, I was not the last one to arrive at the airport for our flight out late on Wednesday night. When we were all together you could feel the excitement brewing as we knew that in just a few hours we would touch down in the land of the free. Speaking of the flight, it was pretty uneventful and because it was late at night it was a good excuse for us all to get a good snooze before we arrived.
We touched down in Honolulu and we could instantly feel the little jump between winter and summer, boy was it hot. We then had to grab our bags from the international terminal, drop them off at the transit belt and make our way through security to catch our domestic flight to Kailua-Kona, sounds pretty straightforward right? That is unless you are Grace and Lauren bringing their checked-in luggage all the way to the domestic terminal without dropping it off at the transit belt. Tiwai to the rescue, he managed to get their luggage where it needed to be and after a little setback we continued on our way. The flight to Kailua-Kona was on a much smaller plane and much quicker, taking just over 45 minutes. When we arrived we were greeted to a very (I’m ashamed to say it) wholesome little airport made up of little huts and outdoor conveyor belts, it was very, very cute.
We filled up two trusty minivans, popped into Sack n Save so Loukas could live out his wildest childhood dreams (it’s a supermarket by the way) and then checked into the Kona Seaside Hotel. We spent the afternoon swimming down at the beach and familiarising ourselves with the local township, even got talking with some locals about the big race as well as some non-locals who were let’s say… just happy to be there. After some kai we food coma’d out and fell straight asleep, day 1 was complete.
The next morning we were up early for breakfast, then straight on the water for our first training in Hawaii. We’d gone swimming the day before but being out in the open water was different, looking into the deep blue was amazing. To be honest, it led to a couple sets of paddling that fell out of time, but being there taking it all in was next level. Once we finished training, we practiced our waiata and haka (more info on that later) and grabbed a feed before our first race of the weekend, the OC4 Relay. This race consisted of two teams of four, funny enough, one team went around the course then they jump out, next crew jumps in and goes around the course to finish the race. The catch was we had to perform a manoeuver called the “huli” – which had us having to complete flip the waka then flipping it back upright so the next crew of the relay could jump in. This led to a couple of great races, with one of them having us actually sink the boat, which to us was a bit of a surprise but nonetheless a great little warmup before the big kahuna on Saturday.
We then had to shoot home, shower and head on over to Hulihe’e Palace just along the coastline to celebrate the International Paddlers Night. This was a truly humbling experience and it provided a pretty entertaining evening. We learnt about the history of Kailua-Kona as well as the connections that the palace, now museum, had with the royal monarchs of Hawaii. The drinks were flowing, the food was delicious and we got the chance to meet some pretty cool people from all around the world, even some paddling 80-90 miles from the neighbouring islands of Hawaii to be here for the prestigious event. As we were nearing the end of the night, the sunburn hit hard and the eyes were feeling drowsy, if it wasn’t for Joe winning one of the spot prizes I feel like we could have all fallen asleep, that is until the MC called us up on to stage to perform a cultural piece to send the night off. Blood, sweat and tears might have gone into our paddling but it was our waiata and haka that we really wanted to get spot on as we stood in front of 100 or so eager geezers, it was actually quite surreal seeing the amount of phones and cameras that started rising as we got up on stage. They didn’t know what was about to hit them, heck, neither did we, all we knew is we had to sing and haka our butts off. After a few short moments of our performance, we were blessed with a huge applause and a lot of people vocalising their affection towards our performance, it was a hit and we were all super stoked with what we were able to present part of our culture. We took the short walk home with grins on our faces, not without stopping in for some dessert of course, and then hitting the nail on a pretty full on day. Even though the sun began to set, the challenge awaiting us on Saturday was definitely on the rise, day 2 was complete.
Written by Jordan TeAukura