Outrigger Canoe Club
has changed with the times

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (5/09/98)
By Ray Pendleton

The Outrigger Canoe Club is celebrating its 90th anniversary this month.

According to Harold Yost in his book "The Outrigger," promoter and visionary Alexander Hume Ford founded the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club in May, 1908, on an acre and a half of land and lagoon between the Seaside (now the Royal Hawaiian) and Moana hotels in Waikiki.

Ford, perceiving that residences and hotels were occupying the whole beach, felt the art of surfboard riding was dying out "owing to the fact that Waikiki was becoming closed to the small boy of limited means."

So, he and a few friends leased the property from the Queen Emma Estate, with the guarantee that "the property should be used only for the purpose of preserving surfing on boards and in outrigger canoes."

Now, 90 years doesn't cover much of human history, and even less in geologic terms, but the fact that major changes have occurred in Hawai`i in that period can't be denied. Ford thought it was crowded then? Try to imagine what Waikiki was like the year the OCC was founded. Yost's descriptions draw a graphic picture.

Taking a streetcar down McCully Street and over a wooden trestle, a typical male passenger, wearing the usual white "cotton drill" suit, would find himself traveling across what appeared to be an extensive open swamp, dotted with small islands inhabited with duck farms, chickens, mules, horses, cows, and "lots of mosquitoes."

As the streetcar turned onto dusty Waikiki Road (now Kalakaua Avenue) the duck ponds could still be seen on the left, but on the ocean side the land was covered with trees and bushes until the Moana Hotel came into sight. Across from the Moana was Princess Kaiulani's home, Ainahau, and next to it was Royal Grove, where high-ranking Hawaiian families lived.

The streetcar line ended at the foot of Diamond Head, near the Kapiolani Park race track and polo field, and the oceanfront mansion of James B. Castle, which would someday play a part in the canoe club's future.

Over the years, from the creation of its original clubhouse - consisting of two grass houses purchased from a defunct zoo in Kaimuki - to the construction of its present modern complex, the OCC grew and adapted to the many changes in society and its Waikiki Beach environment.

As early as 1910, a new, sturdier clubhouse and dance pavilion was being constructed and the club was on its way to transforming itself from an aquatic sports club for men and boys, to a sports and social organization for all.

The club abandoned its all-male concept in 1926, signed a new 25-year lease in 1938, and three years later, opened a new Waikiki Beach clubhouse, featuring a dining room and a cocktail lounge.

In the 1950s, the OCC was prospering and promoting the formation of the Hawaiian Canoe Racing and Surfing Association, but with hotels sprouting like weeds around its Waikiki clubhouse, it was also seeing the need to find a new home.

Eventually, a lease agreement was worked out with the Elk's Lodge, which had purchased the Castle Estate in the '20s, and on January 11, 1964, the OCC opened the doors of its present oceanfront clubhouse.

When so much of the past has disappeared, Outrigger must be congratulated for surviving the test of time. Here's to you OCC and to another 90 years.

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

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