Shahlia Wainui, one of Na Kai Ewalu’s keiki coaches, high-fives head coach Owen Seiki after the John Wilmington III sophomore women’s race Saturday at Kahului Harbor. — The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

By Rob Collias
Staff Writer

KAHULUI — John Wilming-ton III would have enjoyed Saturday at Kahului Harbor.

One of Na Kai Ewalu Canoe Club’s charter members in 1972, Wilmington reached out to the children of Central Maui to come to the harbor for outrigger paddling. The club he helped found has had a resurgence in the keiki ranks this summer, something that continued in this year’s edition of the event named for Wilmington, who died in 1995.

“It’s extremely important — Papa John helped out our kids, coached our kids and was at the forefront of putting our kids in the right direction through paddling,” said Shahlia Wainui, niece of longtime former

Na Kai Ewalu head coach Boogie Wainui and one of the club’s four youth coaches. “So, as a keiki coach as well, we really are trying to take his vision, his mana’o, and bring our kids in and get them a good place to be during the summer.

“Not only teach them about our Hawaiian culture, but life lessons and how to go out in our community and be better people.”

Na Kai Ewalu finished first in three novice races — mixed B, men’s B and men’s A — and the freshman women added their third win in four regattas.

Na Kai Ewalu finished fifth in the club standings with 56 points. Hawaiian won with 152, extending its season lead, and Kihei was second with 79.

“It’s a great day for us,” said Na Kai Ewalu head coach Owen Seiki. “It’s a great fundraiser for the club. It’s our own regatta, so there’s a lot more pride with everybody racing. Everybody pushes a little harder, they’re more active, they want to do more. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Maisie Ramage, one of the freshman women paddlers for Na Kai Ewalu, said the crew changed its lineup after opening the season with a runner-up finish.

“Today feels great because it’s our race. It’s awesome to take home a purple ribbon with your gold medal,” Ramage said.

Taima McCartney, Pualani Fukuda, Rosie Amico, Amanda May and Ashley Jung were also on the crew, and McCartney, Fukuda, Amico and Jung made up the women’s open four crew that finished second.

“It’s very competitive and I appreciate everybody because they push us,” Amico said. “Really, our crew, we just focus on us in our boat and push each other.”

Na Kai Ewalu has 78 registered, active keiki members, and on Saturday had runner-up finishes in girls 16 and boys 12A, 14 and 15 races.

“When I first started we were lucky if we could actually fill two crews to continue on the tradition of being able to race,” said Stephanie Franklin, who has been helping with the club’s youths for five years. “Being a member we would hear about John Wilmington from Uncle Boogie, so what we’re trying to do is perpetuate that culture, keep that same sense of commitment.”

Na Kai Ewalu also finished second in the women’s novice A and B events

“Very much so, we’re on the upswing,” said Keone Ball, a 35-year member of the club and the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association president and head water official. “Our novice program keeps getting better, which creeps up on the upper divisions as the novices get older, so we’re very competitive in all the races that we do.

“If you don’t have kids and novice you’ll never grow.”

Paul Luuwai, Hawaiian’s coach for keiki and men, is impressed with his club’s Kahului Harbor neighbor.

“I’m proud of them,” Luuwai said. “I walk by them and talk to their coaches every day and we’re all friends. It’s awesome to see our neighbors get kids out there and their novice division is awesome. It’s good to see our sport keep on growing and it’s good to see that influx of kids over there.”

* Robert Collias is at



Saturday’s Results • At Kahului Harbor

1. Hawaiian 153, 2. Kihei 79, 3. Lae’ula O Kai 68, 4. Napili 68, 5. Na Kai Ewalu 56, 6. Kahana 39, 7. Wailea 28, 8. Hana 7, 9. Lahaina 2.


Collias, Robert. “Keiki are again foundation for Na Kai Ewalu.” The Maui News KAHULUI 27 Jun. 2017: B1. Print + Web: