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Outriggers' way-out race
Richard W. Johnston
November 06, 1972
It may look like a tourist stunt, but the annual 41-mile run across Hawaii's Molokai Channel is one of the toughest events in all sport
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November 06, 1972

Outriggers' Way-out Race

It may look like a tourist stunt, but the annual 41-mile run across Hawaii's Molokai Channel is one of the toughest events in all sport

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It was clear by now that the Outrigger Club canoe was falling behind. Out in front by almost a mile was Waikiki Surf, its paddlers a motley string—bare, red shirt, bare, orange shirt, yellow shirt, bare—but all driving their koa canoe Malia across the flats with a precision Philadelphia's Vesper Boat Club might envy. Waikiki Surf had a lot of talent going for it. One of its paddlers was Blue Makua Jr., son of a man sometimes called "the father of outrigger racing in Hawaii." It also had Dutchy Kino, who paddled the first race in 1952 and was doing it again. In the stern was Coach Nappy Napoleon, another veteran, and on the tender, hollering up a storm of enthusiasm and support, was old Blue Makua himself.

It was just 10:03, not quite halfway, but in a sense the race was decided. Only Hui Nalu had a chance to overtake Surf's tireless chargers, and that was eliminated by the leader's brilliant closing move inside the Waikiki reef. Waikiki Surf did not originate this high-risk tactic, but its paddlers remembered it well from 1969 when the Outrigger Club crew, 300 yards behind Surf off Diamond Head, cut inside the reef and almost won the race-Hui Nalu finished second, about 12 minutes back, and Healani came in four minutes later, both having followed the usual route beyond the reef. No one was nibbled by a shark, though a reserve paddler for the Kamehameha Canoe Club suffered a propeller cut during a transfer.

Except for the marines, every paddler in the race had begun training in May, competing in dozens of shorter events held every summer in or near Honolulu and on the California coast. From Labor Day on many crews had practiced daily, with races of up to 20 miles on weekends. Had it all been worth it? Even the marines, who finished 15th, thought so. "Next year we'll win it," said a marine enlisted paddler, his sweat-soaked white-sidewall crew cut gleaming like a buoy marker in the midst of all that triumphant, long Hawaiian hair. "You know a tougher event?"

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