PHOTOS: Paddling Crews Honor Gonzales in Ocean Memorials
By Wendy Osher
More than 20 canoes filled with high school paddlers headed out before their regatta on Saturday to drop flowers off of West Maui in memory of long-time race official William Kalanikai Gonzales.
Crews from Maui, Lanai and Molokai were accompanied by a ceremony of song, chants and conch shells blowing.
The high school regatta was originally scheduled for Kihei, but was moved to Lahaina in honor of Gonzales.
Today, hundreds of paddlers from Maui’s canoe clubs and other islands joined in a memorial at Hanaka’o’o Beach in Lahaina also in tribute to Gonzales.
More than 40 canoes formed a circle around a double-hulled canoe carrying family members. While on the water, paddlers prayed together and sang Hawaii Aloha.
Flowers were also dropped from a Windward Aviation helicopter in his memory. Owners Don and Donna Shearer were joined by two firemen/paddlers who volunteered their time to assist.
The Napili Canoe Club, where Gonzales was a member, hosted several hundred people after the memorial with a lu’au lunch.
Gonzales was fatally injured on December 29, 2011, off the shores of Hanaka’o’o by a recreational boat while preparing regatta lanes for high school crews to practice on.
Gonzales served as a race official for many years with Maui’s summer regattas and Maui County’s high school canoe paddling league.