Where do the world’s best ocean paddlers gather every Labor Day Weekend? In Kona, Hawai’i at the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races.
The world’s largest outrigger canoe races, hosted by Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club, launch on Saturday, September 1 and continue through Monday, September 3, 2012 with expert paddlers from around the world competing in hotly contested races.
And while the competition is fierce throughout the holiday weekend, the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races are rooted in a higher purpose – to perpetuate Hawai’i's vibrant canoe culture.
Outrigger canoes have been a primary source of transportation throughout the history of Pacific Islanders. Today, traditional outrigger canoe racing is a very popular sport in Hawai’i and other Pacific nations. In fact, the popularity of outrigger canoe racing has spread to nearly all Pacific Rim countries, Europe and Central and South America.
How did the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races get started?
In the 1950s, the precursor to the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races was an outrigger canoe race held on O’ahu, from Ke’ei Beach around Diamond Head and over to Kailua Beach. Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club hosted that race and their crew, coached by Frank Enriques, beat out the other crews that included some very good crews from Hilo. Two decades later, when Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club created the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races, this same 18 miles is the race distance they had in mind.
Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club started what was then-called the Queen’s Race in 1972 as a training race leading up to the Moloka’i Hoe, the renowned open ocean race from Moloka’i to O’ahu. Louis Kahanamoku, the fifth of six brothers of the legendary water sports family whose most famous member was three-time Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, and his wife Mary Jane acted as General Chairman and Race Secretary. It was Louis who proposed to name the race after Queen Lili’uokalani since her birthday is celebrated on September 2.
The inaugural Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race was a men only race, starting in Kealakekua Bay and finishing at Kailua Pier. The first race attracted eight 6-man crews. Two years following, the women’s division was added and the course was set with women racing from Kailua Bay to Honaunau, and then the men bring the race back – racing from Honaunau to Kailua.
2,500 Paddlers Now Gather from Around the World
Today, the 41st annual Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races embrace and celebrate Hawai’i's ocean heritage. The Races draw more than 2,500 competitors from around the world who arrive in Kona to race the 18-mile open ocean course.
Several events unfold throughout the three-day weekend:
Saturday, September 1
- Wa’a Kaukahi (races for single hull canoes)
- Awards Ceremony
- Torchlight Parade
Sunday, September 2
- Wa’a Kaulua (races for double hull canoes)
- OC1 (one person) & OC2 Races (two person)
- Stand-up Paddleboards
- Teen (single hull canoes)
- Hawaiian luau
Monday, September 3
- Ali’i Challenge (a blend of Survivor and Amazing Race with single hull canoes – 12 person crew)
New to the sport of outrigger canoe races? Single hull outrigger racing canoes carry six paddlers; double hulls carry 12. Add these traditional words to your vocabulary and you’ll sound like a pro in no time: wa’a (canoe, the very same word in Hawaiian, Tahitian and Maori), ama (outrigger float on the canoe), hoe (start paddling), huki (dig) and huli (flip the canoe – not what you want to do in racing).
Not a paddler? No problem. There’s plenty to do including Thursday’s “talk story” cultural walk through Historic Kailua Village. Walk with noted historians who will share rich history of the village including ancient Hawaiian cultural sites like Ahuena Heiau, Hulihee Palace and Mokuaikaua Church. Throughout the weekend check out the cultural craft and ocean fair and on Saturday, Blue Sea Cruises and Body Glove are offering spectators and race crews shuttle cruises. This is a great way to watch the race without getting wet and enjoy the scenery along the beautiful Kona coast.
The 2012 Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races are sponsored in part by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, County of Hawai’i, Queen K Tesoro, Steinlager, OluKai, Ocean Paddler Television, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, Hulakai and numerous corporate and community donors.
For more race information, including a detailed slate of events, photos, history and contacts, visit www.kaiopua.org.
Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races
Summary of Overall Winners Past Five Years
- 2011 Overall Men Livestrong #1 Iron Open NK 1:52:26
- 2011 Overall Women Kalihi Kai Iron Open NK 2:12:172
- 2010 Overall Men Team Primo Iron Open NK 1:53:56
- 2010 Overall Women Waikiki Beach Iron Unlimited 2:08:52
- 2009 Overall Men Team Primo #2 Iron Open NK 1:52:34
- 2009 Overall Women Hui Lanakila #2 Iron Open NK 2:12:16
- 2008 Overall Men Team Livestrong #2 Iron Open NK 1:54:06
- 2008 Overall Women Waikiki Beach Iron Open NK 2:05:47
- 2007 Overall Men Tui Tonga Iron Open NK 1:43:42
- 2007 Overall Women Hui Lanakila Iron Open NK 2:18:39
The Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races (QLCR) kicks off each Labor Day holiday weekend. The world’s largest long distance canoe race is organized and hosted by Kai Opua Canoe Club, started 1929 in Kona.
QLCR includes an 18-mile long distance single hull canoe race for men and women crews, double-hull canoe races, stand-up paddleboard races, OC1, OC2 and Teen long distance canoe races. The Ali’i Challenge,a blend of Survivor and Amazing Race, includes a paddling distance of almost 17.5 miles followed by each crew of 12 negotiating a land course. Other Queen Lili’uokalani events include International Paddlers Night, Torch Light Parade through Historic Kailua Village, Queen Lili’uokalani Awards Ceremonies and a traditional Hawaiian Luau.
The Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race is sponsored in part by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, County of Hawaii, Queen K Tesoro, Steinlager, OluKai, Ocean Paddler Television, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, Hulakai and numerous corporate and community donors.
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