Maui News

10th Anniversary Paddle for Life, Voyage to Lāna‘i

September 20, 2018, 9:38 AM HST
* Updated September 21, 10:04 AM
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Paddle for Life. Maui Now photo by Gaylord Paul Garcia.

By Wendy Osher

Preparations are underway for the 10th anniversary edition of the Pacific Cancer Foundation’s Paddle for Life event and fundraiser.

The symbolic journey begins on the West Maui shoreline at Hanakaʻōʻō Beach on Saturday, Oct. 6, with cancer patients, survivors and supporters traversing the ʻAuʻau Channel to the shores of Mānele Bay on Lānaʻi.

The paddle event is described as a voyage, not a race.  “It’s intended to represent a cancer patient’s journey and how it takes everyone in the canoe to make it across the channel together.  It also takes everyone in the community to help a cancer patient get through their journey to come out the other side successfully,” said Nancy La Joy, Executive Director at the Pacific Cancer Foundation.

“There is truly a remarkable parallel between an ocean paddling voyage and the journey experienced by cancer patients and survivors. Both involve tremendous physical, mental and emotional strength. Both require patience and perseverance. And, ultimately, it takes a team to make the journey successful,” according to the Pacific Cancer Foundation.


The event relies heavily on the symbolism present in Hawaiian culture, including the canoe itself and its various parts. La Joy referenced a Hawaiian saying or ʻŌlelo noʻeau, “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa,” which is translated as, “The canoe is our island, the island is our canoe.”


“In the canoe we learn to work with one another and take care of each other during our voyages.  When we are on land, the island becomes our canoe.  We work together and we support each other.  And so this becomes our symbolism for Paddle for Life.  It is a reminder that we are all in the same canoe.  Whether we are there as a survivor or as a supporter; we are in this together,” said La Joy.

The boats will be covered with pictures in memory or honor of individuals fighting cancer or those who have since passed.

Upon arrival at Mānele Bay, Hawaiian protocol will take place to ask permission to land on Lānaʻi.  Once on island, paddlers will have lunch, yoga on the beach and massage sessions.  Nalu’s South Shore Grill in Kīhei has organized a team of paddlers to participate in the event and will provide dinner at the campground.  Hapa is scheduled to entertain at this year’s event.


Paddlers will spend the night at the campground before venturing back for the return portion of the journey on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

Organizers say each leg is expected to take 3.5 to 4 hours to complete. With 30 canoes, 30 escort boats and a host of volunteers participating this year, the total number of individuals making the 36-mile round-trip journey is estimated at around 350 to 400.

Participants range in age from 5 years old to 80 years old, and include men, women and children who are raising funds for all types of cancer.

The event’s fundraising aspect is set up like a walk-a-thon in which each paddler sets an individual goal for how much they would like to raise.  All proceeds benefit the Pacific Cancer Foundation and Maui’s cancer community, with the goal this year to raise $250,000.  Donations are being accepted online at the Pacific Cancer Foundation website and Paddle for Life 2018 online registration platform.

Community organizer and paddler Kimokeo Kapahulehua serves as the Event Chairperson.  He joins the cultural liaison of Pulama Lānaʻi in organizing the cultural aspect of the event.

*Below is video from last year’s 2017 event. Video courtesy: Pacific Cancer Foundation.

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