Each year during the first week of April, the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society (HOCVS) gathers in Haleiwa Oahu to paddle the Ka'ie'ie Waho channel to Kauai in honor of the passing of Kendall, one the the society's most inspirational founders. The voyage across Ka'ie'ie Waho to Kauai was a success according to Matt Muirhead. Six first time paddlers crossed to Kauai along with experienced voyagers to celebrate and honor Kendall.
Thank you Matt for sharing your story of this voyage and including impressions from the various paddlers along the way.
Each voyage to Kauai has its own vibration. Just as the ocean is never the same, those who show up on the sandy shore of Haleiwa each year are never the same. This was our fourth annual crossing since Kendall’s passing and we recognized the spiritual nature and power this voyage would be different. Each person brings their manao into the canoe. Paddlers know every time six people paddle somewhere, even if it’s only a few miles; the experience is shaped by the mana -spirit that resonates within the canoe.
The mana of generations come with each crew member. This was evident for us as we sat in a circle around Kimkeo Kapahulehua and everyone shared who we were, our family, our parents, our grandparents and why it was significant for us to reach Kauai by canoe. Each story carried the same thread and each thread pulled on all of us in similar ways. The best confirmation to spiritual things is often found in nature. As Kimokeo sang and chanted, giving thanks for Kendall, for each of us and for permission to cross to Kauai, the wind suddenly whipped up, first blowing off the bay, then wrestling the trees around us. It was the kind of warm wind that wraps around you, that feels good and reminds you there is a deeper meaning to life. As we sat on the beach much aloha was expressed and it was filled with affection, gratitude, compassion and kindness. No prejudice everyone gets a seat, a paddle and all pulling in the same direction.
The momoa, the pointed stern of the canoe hull is regarded as the seat of our aumakua – our ancestral spirits. These spirits are felt in your bones when you have gratitude or need a lift. They can make appearances in various forms, they provide help, comfort, protection and strength. On this voyage to Kauai, there was no room left on the mamoa. As we left the shore toward the full moon we were engulfed by the significance of what we were doing for us and those we carried with us.
Pepe Trask is a founder of the HOCVS - It is never the same ole, but ever new and invigorating. Of those who were with us - Tom, a crew member crossed this channel 40 years ago in a koa canoe at the age of 19 with his father. They paddled from Poai for 19 hours to a cold and spent Kalapaki welcome. Unimaginably they had no covers, but lucky they were blessed in their koa. Kamehameha’s koa canoes never made it.
And we had Kendall – a lone ranger, quiet, thoughtful, kind, considerate, selfless, resourceful, under the radar and athletic… the first to paddle the Ka’ie’ie Waho solo on an OC-1. Most likely because he would not have to worry or fret over the well being and safety of anyone else.
And then Ohana O Wa’a was born. Arising from the po by Manaiakalani, blessed by our aumakua from the beginning of time, inspired by David Kapahulehua and unwaveringly shepherded by the mana and manao of Kimokeo Kapahulehua. And so it is our avowed mission and duty to pass on, and on, and on our hoe wa’a Ke Ala Ka’I Kou Mau Kupuna – to paddle our canoe In the Pathway of our Ancestors.
First time crew member Matthew Louis writes - One day Cam and I were talking, and I said "I have no idea how to prepare for this crossing". He told me "there is no way to prepare for it; you have to want to be there that’s the only way". When we left the harbor that morning paddling out I wanted to be there. About 15 minutes out of Haleiwa on my right side I caught a glimpse of a shooting star and the canoe started to release and we started to move faster through the water and all of that reassured me that I REALLY wanted to be there. Needless to say it was all smiles after that.
Talking with Kimokeo on the escort boat was amazing. He told me things about the water, the birds, and the sky and how they are used to navigate. There are no words that can express my appreciation for what he told me. Lastly paddling into Kapalaki and hearing the Pu from the escort boat, and Kimokeo leading the others in chant gave me chicken skin like no other, and made me push even harder to the break wall.
First time crew member Stephenie writes - I was introduced to paddling when I was 10 years old, & after my 1st practice I was hooked! I found a love in canoe paddling that is timeless & has no boundaries. It's the highest expression of who I am as a Hawaiian wahine.
For me the Wa'a is a Vessel or a Portal that takes me to a place where I can visit, and celebrate my Ancestors. When I'm paddling I think of them always. I think of their accomplishments because of the Wa'a, of voyaging from Kahiki to find new land, and what that would have been like. Paddling is my Church because it's my direct connection to God. I'm always a better person when I get out of the Wa'a.
When we were in canoe under the Lunar Eclipse we were going so fast! We took off & it felt so good & so right that none of us even thought of stopping. Then Cameron said, "Hey, I don't see the escort boat." Then we all started looking around & found the escort boat pointed in another direction! I thought, 'Let's see if this whistle tied around my neck works'... and it did!
The last 3 miles for me was the hardest & the most rewarding. When we made our change to finish the race we as a crew decidied to give it all that we had. The current was super strong & offered no rest for the weary. At one point we stopped. We drank water, splashed ourselves, & regrouped. I said, "Now we paddle for Kendall. We give it everything that we've got. Leave it all on the water. Give it all to Kendall."
When we started up again I was tired. I just relaxed being completely exhausted. At that time I felt the Mana come to me. It was Kendall & my Coach Kainoa. I felt alive again as I let their Mana paddle for me while I relaxed my body, while I surrendered. It was they who brought us in, they, Kendall & Kainoa, our ocean angels.
I'm overcome with emotions, all of them good. To be a part of this voyage that Honored & Celebrate the Life of your Brother & Friend, Kendall was utterly beautiful from start to finish. The love that you share & express for him is Amazing. Mahalo.
Crew member Kimberlee writes - I am tired, a little sore, a bit dazed, and so full of happiness that I really can't do anything except think about the wonderful time spent with you all over the last couple days.
I've been around the world doing crazy outdoor adventures, surfed all through the Pacific and elsewhere, crossed channels between Hawaiian islands 19 times, shared amazing times with much-loved family and friends, and barring the births of my children and grandchildren, my 20th Molokai crossing, this time across Kaie'ie Waho was the most amazing life experience I've ever had. It was triply amazing because my friendship with Kendall.
For now, thanks from the bottom of my heart to Kimokea for all of the cultural knowledge, import and aloha shared. Without out you this voyage would have been an entirely different experience. The deepest things we can learn, honor and respect about this crossing are rooted in Hawaiian culture. I thought about Hawaiian culture and words, and places and people the entire time, and like ka ie'ie, I can't seem to stop thinking about it all.
Thanks also from the bottom of my heart to Pepe. You did so much to pull it all together I wouldn't know where to start with specifics... you just did so much. Thanks for trusting and choosing me. I thank you especially for honoring me in the end- first with a change to stroke, and then allowing me to slip back and steer us home. It was truly the pinnacle of a lifetime, and incredible honor, and a deeply humbling experience. I always thought of my Kainoa sitting up on the mountain whenever I paddle by, and I absolutely felt her watching and guiding us in. Mahalo Nui Loa.
Looking forward to more adventures with any of you, all of you, any time. I'll always put my heart, soul and muscle into it, I promise.
Salty veteran Mike says – The first moment of chicken skeen for me was when Kimokeo chanted on the beach and the ocean Makani answered. That was like our ancestors blessing our journey. Also at the same time I noticed a sea bird buzzing the harbor. The protocol and blessings given, and the ceremony which included everyone was spiritual and connected all of us to the aina and the Kai. No one was left out and we all felt inclusive and a part of everything that was happening. The sharing of our family and stories about ourselves and the Mana of each of us and Wa’a was magical for me. I really felt an ohana bond with everyone. The Ho’okipa of our hosts was incredible with couplet spirit of Kokua, great grinds, good sleep, and waking up refreshed and ready. So honored that you trusted me to steer you in the Dark. The winds were piping a bit and she wanted to run to the starboard so was feeling guilty having to poke so much to keep her following the guiding star that Donnie set as our course. Then the lunar eclipse started and it went from bright light to kina dark. The changes were all very tense with trying to not be too close to the escort so the winds would not push the Wa’a into the boat but not too far away so we would have difficulty getting back to the boat. Getting in is always a challenge and I was glad to see that everyone had their own system, some fast, some taking their time working it, and then, presto, into the seat to begin the journey. The time in the Wa’a passed very quickly. Watching the eclipse from the ocean was very special and a moment I will never forget. Seeing Kauai from 25 miles out was really cool. Everyone Laulima pulled together in the same direction with all their heart.
We were blessed in perfect conditions. The winds were strong throughout the day and we had a good size swell running with us. We could find little wind bumps to help us pick off the bigger running swells. We divided up the paddling with young people and senior people. The result was a coming together of the strength of youth and the experience of the older. We arrived to Kalapaki Kauai in 13 hours 10 minutes - A new record for the crossing without a sail. A hui ho till next year.
Thank you for your support. As everyone said “it amazing the things that happen with one of these in your hands”. We all are grateful to have used Kialoa paddles and hope you understand that a paddle is not just a paddle.