HoloHolo Hawai`i Ocean Sports News




The Silver Anniversary Na Wahine O Ke Kai / 25th crossing

Contact: Diane Fujii Johnson
Cellular: 808-381-9763

Honolulu, HAWAI`I (September 22, 2003) - Don't ever tell a wahine (woman) she can't do something because she will prove you wrong. Back in 1954, veteran wahine paddlers of the Senior Women crew of the Waikiki Surf Club had just completed a successful year in paddling and felt the need to meet the challenge of a strenuous race such as the "mens only" Molokai to Oahu race.

The crew, made up of Jake Kalama, Lia Abbey, Gilda Downing, Trudy Irvine, Hannie Anderson and Vi Makua tried to arrange their own race but heard nothing but negative feedback from the male paddlers. "It's too rough out there for wahines" they went on to say - even the Coast Guard denied their request.

But this made the wahine more adamant and the night before the mens race, dressed in t-shirts and shorts, they hitched a boat ride to Molokai. "We just wanted to see what the channel was like," recalls Hannie, who is still Race Director. "I knew the women could paddle the channel if given the chance."

On October 12, 1975 the first unofficial crossing was completed by Healani Canoe Club and Onipaa crews made up of 18 women from Waikiki Surf Club, Lanikai, Kailua and Outrigger. 3 of the women were pregnant at the time. Donna Wolfe, who spearheaded the event remembers the terrific feeling of accomplishment after successfully crossing the channel. In 1975 she went on to say, "We had such a bond between us, and we still have it to this day, as we remember what we went through."

Three years later, Hawaii Canoe Racing Association began talking about a full-fledged women's race but this effort kept running into delays. Growing impatient, the women founded their own organization, the Na Wahine O Ke Kai Association in February of 1979. The first Chairperson was Mary Winchester. At the '79 election meeting, Puna Dawson christened the paddling event Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women of the Sea) which took on a new meaning on October 14, 1979, the date of the first women's Molokai to Oahu Canoe Race. Outrigger Canoe Club won this race in 6 hours, 35 minutes, 14 seconds.

Since then the race has grown into what is considered the World Championships of Long-Distance Canoe Paddling. Last year 400+ women in 54 crews from Hawaii and around the world gathered on Molokai to test their endurance and spirit. Hannie Anderson, who officiated the first crossing still is the Race Director for the Na Wahine O Ke Kai and continues to paddle today. Other members of the Na Wahine O Ke Kai committee include Shelly Gilman and four of the women that were on the Onipaa Crew - Haunani Campos-Olds, Carleen Ornellas, Sig Tannehill, and Rosie Lum. Rosie is proud to announce that her daughter will paddle in this year's race.

These women who make up this organization have made a lifelong commitment to this sport - and at a time when women's sports are now just receiving some sort of parity, these women were way ahead of their time - and pioneers for all women. JoJo Toeppner has paddled every race across the Molokai Channel. An amazing woman…small in stature, with a hearty laugh and a spirit of a tiger is a member of the infamous Offshore team from California. Offshore currently holds the record for the fastest time, and the record for winning the Na Wahine O Ke Kai ten times.

Jojo talks of Hannie and the organization, "they pour their hearts into everything they do…and are able to make a special attachment with every paddler". She goes on to explain what drives her to come back evey year, "Every (Molokai race) is fulfilling. You get something different from it each year, from the conditions and from your teammates. There are not that many races from island to island. Sometimes the conditions are glassy, other times the swells are 25 feet, you never know what you are going to get." What she would like to say to the women who instigated this adventure: "Thank you for all of the work done that allows women to be in the sport, and for the opportunity to achieve all one can."

This year is a pinnacle year with the 25th anniversary Hawaii Modular Space Na Wahine O Ke Kai occuring on Sunday, September 28, 2003. Mahalo to all the sponsors that helped make this race possible: Hawaii Modular Space, Hinano Tahiti Beer, Ocean Club, RCI Construction Group, Hawaiian 105 KINE, Laser Eye Center, XCEL Wetsuits.

RACE DATE: Sunday, September 28, 2003

This site will be linking to all available online resources for the 2 Moloka`i Races,
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Also see: Official 2003 Pre-race info

*2003 Na Wahine O Ke Kai

Last Modified: 20030928.1159 HST Sunday
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