Maui Sports

13th Annual Wa‘a Kiakahi Celebrates Traditional Sailing

April 19, 2017, 2:02 PM HST
* Updated April 26, 2:10 PM
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Wa‘a Kiakahi Perpetuates Islands’ Sailing Canoe Legacy

The 13th annual Wa‘a Kiakahi will grace Kā‘anapali’s shores from June 2 to 4, welcoming 10 six-member crews from all islands to share with the public the history and proficiency of traditional Hawaiian sailing canoes.

Created by the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association, the three-day event features traditional ceremonies, sailing canoe rides and educational talks about celestial navigation and water skills. HCSA conducts its races in the same mode as ancient Hawaiians: sailors do not make crew changes, and they travel every channel connecting the Hawaiian Islands.

Kā‘anapali Beach Resort Association is the title sponsor of the event, and the public is invited to interact with the canoes and sailors on Kā‘anapali Beach.  The schedule of events includes the following:

Friday, June 2

  • 8:30 a.m. Rigging of canoes at Kahului Harbor canoe clubs.
  • 11:30 a.m. Race start from Kahului. Ten crews race approximately 27 miles to Kā‘anapali.
  • 3 p.m. Race completion at Kā‘anapali Beach. Arrival of sailing canoes with a traditional Hawaiian welcome ceremony.

Saturday, June 3

  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free sailing canoe rides for all ages, “talk story” opportunities with race team members, and demonstrations between Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel and Sheraton Maui.

Sunday, June 4

  • 8 a.m. Race Ceremony
  • 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. Race start from Kā‘anapali Beach. Sailing canoe send-off and traditional Hawaiian farewell ceremony for Mel Paoa Pailolo Race: 10 six-man crews race approximately 27 miles from Kā‘anapali to the island of Moloka‘i.

The race from Kahului to Kā‘anapali is a challenging one. The direction of sail is constantly changing as the canoes round the north shore, sailing past Kahakuloa and Kapalua. Upon leaving Kahului Harbor, the canoes must turn slightly upwind, paddling hard to pass Waihe‘e, then as they pass Kahakuloa, the going usually gets easier as they start heading more downwind. But, if the tradewinds are brisk, the turn of sail direction (jibe) usually done near Kapalua can be tricky.

On Sunday, the race to Moloka‘i is not as technically challenging, but is always dependent on the wind and weather. Usually the canoes head straight out between Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i before turning in towards Moloka‘i later in the race.

The participating teams for 2017 are: Olukai, Kaua‘i; Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, Maui; Maui Jim, Kaua‘i; Aston Whaler, O‘ahu; One Kai, O‘ahu; Bioastin, Hawai‘i; Hui Nalu Canoe Club, O‘ahu; Moloka‘i Canoe Club, Moloka‘i; and Kahiau, O‘ahu.


HCSA is excited to welcome back Ikaika Kinkaid sailing “Kahiau.” Ikaika grew up with the sport, sailing with his dad and uncle, and he now rejoins the fleet after living on the mainland for the last eight years.

The public will get a chance to meet the sailors and to take a free ride in a sailing canoe on Saturday. There is no age requirement to go out, and life jackets will be provided for non-swimmers.

“Being able to share the tradition of sailing canoes with the public is something all the crews look forward to,” says Ray Glauser of Team Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel. “We like to share the sport that we are passionate about, as it is truly unique. If we can give someone a taste of what is like to be in a sailing canoe, that is an honor for us.”

Ocean Paddler TV often films the event, which is usually aired later in the summer.

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