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When planning your visit to visit Hawaii, you have probably encountered the Molokai Hoe Paddle Race. After all, it is one of the most anticipated events on the islands. Adventure seekers and water sports junkies from all over the globe flock to Hawaii to witness and participate in a 41-mile Outrigger Canoe Race from Molokai to Oahu, through the Kaiwi Channel (which means “the bone.”) This is the culminating activity and considered the world championship event of men’s long-distance outrigger canoe racing.
The Moloka’i Hoe is an annual men’s outrigger canoe race between the islands of Molokai and Oahu, Hawaii. The race is one of Hawaii’s largest annual sporting events, drawing participants from Hawaii and the U.S. mainland as well as internationally. Participating countries include Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, and Tahiti.
Canoes launch from the Hale o Lono Harbor off the west side of Molokai and travel approximately 41 miles across the Kaiwi Channel to Fort DeRussy beach, Waikiki. The channel has a reputation of being among one of the most treacherous channels in the world, with the current record time for the passage being under 5 hours.
The canoes used for the race are roughly 40 feet long by about 2 feet wide and weigh about 400 lbs each. Each canoe is stabilized by an ama, a 10 foot long float connected to the canoe by two wooden struts called iako.
Six paddlers sit evenly spaced inside the canoe. A steersman sits at the back and controls the canoe’s course with his paddle. The person in the lead seat sets the pace. All paddlers except for the steersman stroke on alternate sides of the canoe. At predetermined intervals, the person sitting in the second seat calls for paddlers to switch sides.
Early race crews consisted of 6 men who paddled the entire distance. Today’s crews consist of 9-10 members, of which those not paddling follow in an escort boat. Crew changes occur every 20–30 minutes in mid-channel. During these changes, paddlers exit the canoe on one side while their relief enters from the other side.
The switchovers can be tough and dangerous. The escort boat will drop off one of the paddlers ahead of the oncoming canoe, and keep going. When the canoe reaches the person floating in the ocean, the other paddler being replaced will jump out of the boat on the other side, while the replacement paddler must pull himself out of the ocean, into the canoe. Since the canoe does not slow down for the switch, and ocean currents and swells can be strong, it makes the switch very difficult. If the replacement person does not get in the canoe, the team is down to 5 paddlers which can slow them down considerably.
The first contest, held in October 1952, consisted of three competing koa wood outrigger canoes of six men each. The course at that time was 38 miles long, starting from Molokai’s northwestern Kawakiu Bay. The first canoe reached the Waikiki finish line 8 hours and 55 minutes later.
Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women of the Sea)
A women’s equivalent of the Molokai Hoe was proposed two years after the first men’s race, but coaches and officials believed the Kaiwi Channel was too treacherous for women to participate. In 1975, two crews made the first unofficial crossing. Since then, the women’s race attracts up to 80 crews and 700 paddlers each year. The women’s race also covers a 41-mile stretch, starting at Hale O Lono at Molokai’s southeast corner and finishing at the Hilton Hotel on Oahu. The current women’s race record is a little under 5 1/2 hours.
RACE DAY – Moloka’i
Sunday October 8, 2017 at Hale O Lono
8:00am: Start of Race from Hale O Lono
12:30pm: Finish at Dukes Beach – Hilton Hawaiian Village
1st Finishers expected at approximately 12:30pm
What is it?
Why is there a race?
When did it start?
Traditionally//changes through the years
Facts about the race
A 41-mile Outrigger Canoe race from Molokai to Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel, the Molokai Hoe is considered the world championship of men’s. The race begins at 8 a.m. at Hale O Lono Harbor and finishes at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki. The first finishers are expected at approximately 12:30 p.m. Each year over 1000+ paddlers from around the world compete in the Molokai Hoe, the men’s world championship in outrigger canoe racing.
In October 12, 1952, three Koa outrigger canoes launched through the surf at Kawakiu Bay on Moloka’i’s west side. Powered by six paddlers, each of the canoes were bound for O’ahu, across 38+ miles of open ocean in the Ka’iwi Channel. Eight hours and 55 minutes later, the Moloka’i canoe, Kukui O Lanikaula landed on the beach at Waikiki in front of the Moana Hotel. This event started the world’s most prestigious outrigger canoe race, the Moloka‘i Hoe.
The Moloka’i Hoe has become one of the longest running annual team sporting events in Hawai’i, second only to football. The Moloka’i Hoe perpetuates one of Hawai’i’s and Polynesia’s most important and historic cultural traditions, while honoring outrigger canoe paddlers around the world. The Moloka’i Hoe tests the limits of physical / mental strength, individual endurance, courage, determination and teamwork while battling nature’s most extreme elements.
Each year over 1000+ paddlers from around the world compete in the Moloka’i Hoe, the men’s world championship in outrigger canoe racing. This year marks the Moloka’i Hoe’s 65th crossing of the treacherous Ka’iwi Channel.