By Rob Collias
Staff Writer

Na Kai Ewalu’s men’s novice B crew of (from front) Kekaialoha Han-Krael, Ryan Cook, Keli‘i Krael, Mark Leuffgen, Bryan Bajaj and Sparky Reyna returns to shore after a win in Saturday’s Dougie Tihada Regatta at Hana­kao‘o (Canoe) Beach Park. — The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

LAHAINA — Things were a little different at the Dougie Tihada Regatta on Saturday.

Joey Tihada, Dougie’s oldest son and Napili Canoe Club’s head coach, was away for a Lahainaluna High School class reunion on an Alaska cruise.

Justice and Nori Tihada — Joey’s son and brother, respectively — helped take the reins at the annual regatta that honors one of the club’s founders, who died in 1989.

“It’s important, especially to my family,” said Justice Tihada, who paddled in seat four on Napili’s victorious mixed 18 crew at Hana­kao’o (Canoe) Beach Park.

“It was hard because we came into the turn second, then it was us and Hawaiian. It was a good thing we had a good power towards the end, so we excelled towards the end. It felt awesome after that. I’m so proud of my teammates. They’re the real reason why we won.”

Justice Tihada was joined on the mixed 18 crew by Iwa Bryan, Ka’onohiakala Hamakua, Lina Nolan-Criste, Annanias Spradlin and Ola Medeiros.

“It means a lot to me, especially since I just graduated (from Lahainaluna),” Justice Tihada said of “The Dougie.” “I wish I had my grandpa with me right now. He passed away before I was born and, especially for my whole family, this means more than anything to us.”

Nori Tihada, the third of Dougie’s four sons, is Napili’s keiki head coach — his crews reeled off four of the club’s other six wins in consecutive races, the girls 12A, boys 12A, mixed 12 and girls 13 events.

Dougie Tihada’s two other sons, Kalani and Kelii Tihada, were also on hand to help, as was their mother, Irene Tihada, who was at the officials’ tent.

“Everybody in the club plays a role, which is very important,” Nori Tihada said. “Only with everybody’s help — whe­ther they be club members, family, parents, grandparents — all these people working together is what makes these kind of things happen.

“From Napili Canoe Club to everybody out there, including the community, you know, ‘Thank you.’ That’s what definitely makes our club. It’s not one person, or one family.”

Hawaiian, which claimed its 14th state title in 18 years last summer, started its chase of a 33rd consecutive Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association crown by winning the regatta with 128 points. Kihei was second with 90.

“The other clubs have got a lot of good kids, good novices. It is kind of spread out,” said Paul Luuwai, who has added men’s coaching duties with Hawaiian to his usual role as keiki coach. “I’m kind of excited to start a new season.”

Luuwai has 113 paddlers under his tutelage.

“It’s not the best for me, but kind of just dealing with it,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do for me and my group, but it is like that every year. I have a definitely large task this year. I have 27 crews today, then I raced 15 unofficial, so I really had 42 crews today. My brain is a little mushy.”

Luuwai said Hawaiian and Napili have a tight bond.

“We love all the clubs, but we have a special relationship with Napili,” he said. “They use our koas (canoes) every year (at the state regatta). We’re kind of like brother-sister kind of thing, we feel like that.”

* Robert Collias is at


Collias, Robert. “‘Dougie’ begins MCHCA season.” The Maui News KAHULUI 4 Jun. 2017: Web: