Surge continues for Nā Kai Ewalu with six victories

By Robert Collias
Staff Writer

KAHULUI – Things are on the upswing for Nā Kai Ewalu Canoe Club.

The purple-clad paddlers won last year’s A Division state championship, and are continuing to hold their own in the powerful Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association.

The trend didn’t stop Saturday in the John Wilmington III Regatta at Kahului Harbor – the host club won five events, capped by an impressive performance in the freshman women’s race.

Jessica Ford, Stephanie Franklin, Shahlia Wainui, Pua Fukuda, Erin Kamai and Amy Peterson won for the second time in three regattas this season, crossing the finish line in their 1-mile race in 9 minutes, 50.45 seconds – 17.5 seconds in front of second-place Napili.

“We’re very excited,” Franklin said. “We’re lucky to represent Na Kai Ewalu. Our club is on the up and up. We’re starting to rise in the right direction. It’s good to get all the support from all of our members.”

Nā Kai Ewalu president Jake Freeman said the club has more than 150 active members.

“We’ve had a good resurgence,” Freeman said. “The kids’ program is outstanding this year and only getting better as the season goes on. The women’s program has come out in force this year and they’re also only getting better.”

Franklin’s commitments to the club include more than racing – she also helps coach the keiki.

“They’re probably my biggest supporters,” Franklin said. “They’re like, ‘There’s coach Steph in the boat,’ so it’s great to be able to share this with them.”

Nā Kai Ewalu finished fourth in the team standings with 61 points. Hawaiian won with 158, and Kihei was second with 81.

Nā Kai Ewalu’s other wins came in the women’s, men’s, and mixed novice B races, men’s novice A and men’s 40.
Wainui said the morning races, which include the novice and keiki events, set the tone for the day.

“Our kids’ crews this year have been amazing,” she said. “We’ve got a bunch of kids this year, brand-new kids, some of them who have never paddled before and they’re medaling. It makes us adults have to work harder because if we see the kids walking around with medals – you know, we have to represent, too.”

Wainui is the niece of veteran head coach Boogie Wainui.

“With the Wainui name, there’s always a ton of pressure to perform up to that standard,” Shahlia Wainui said. “But as a Wainui, I take that on. I’m proud, I try and instill that pride and humility within all of our members, and then it grows everybody culturally as well. We’re culturally minded now, as well, with the inclusion and respect that comes with that name.”

Collias, Robert. “Surge continues for Nā Kai Ewalu with six victories.” The Maui News KAHULUI 19 Jun. 2016: B1. Print.