Founded in 1972, Nā Kai `Ewalu was named after the eight ocean channels surrounding the seven main islands in the Hawaiian chain. The club was formed as a non-profit, tax- exempt corporation to revive, develop and perpetuate Hawaiian culture and traditions through instruction and training.
The founding members and the original board of directors were: Officers: Michael Adams-President, George Uwekoolani-Vice President, Boyd Mossman- Secretary, John Wilmington-Treasurer, Directors: David Kahoohanohano, Thomas Kahea, Edward Vickeny, Elmer Coyle and Peter Keau.
In the early years, the club participated in events as far away as Tahiti and the mainland as well as neighbor island long distance races. We played an active role in our community through participation in Kamehameha Day parades, community work days, and it wasn’t unusual to find some of our members at the hale teaching a Boy Scout troop or kids from local schools the finer points of paddling. We even won a canoe in the Na Mele O Maui songfest competition for keiki. Our prize canoe was aptly named after the song fest.
In 1991, Nā Kai `Ewalu and Hawaiian Canoe Club joined together to launch a defense against the state’s plans to purchase the original hale sites from A&B and displace both canoe clubs. In the years that followed, the collaborated effort from both clubs resulted in A&B’s donation in 1996 of a parcel of land at Ho`aloha Park to the County of Maui for the canoe clubs’ use. With a grant from the County and kokua from members, both clubs successfully completed the two-year effort to construct our new hales.
Nā Kai ‘Ewalu suffered a devastating blow in November of 1996 when a fire destroyed our hale and almost the entire fleet of canoes, including two heirloom koa canoes. Our club immediately rallied and within eight months had completely replaced our racing fleet. The year 1997 was a test of strength and spirit for Nā Kai ‘Ewalu, bringing together community and club members.
Nā Kai `Ewalu continues to serve our members and the community. We have hosted the students at Job Corp, giving them a recreational opportunity away from the site, for many years we hosted Seabury Hall for part of their Hawaiiana program. Nā Kai `Ewalu is also the official host of Kamehameha School Maui’s and Baldwin High School’s MIL paddling team.
In 2006, we started working towards getting a log for a new koa canoe to replace the one lost in the fire. The club prepared culturally and spiritually for the harvest of a koa log. Through different partnerships, the club was involved in replanting koa seedlings in Kahikinui and Ulupalakua. Nā Kai `Ewalu also traveled to Kipahulu on many weekends to find a koa log and held a night march traveling from Ma`alaea to Kihei. Other cultural events included learning chants, working in the loi (taro field), malama `aina (taking care of the land) and restoration of Ko`ie`ie fishpond in Kihei.
In May 2009, we were blessed with a koa log found in the Hilo Forest Reserve on Hawaii Island. Our log was shipped to O`ahu to be built but that contract fell through. Our log was finally returned in 2017 and our canoe is now being built by kalai wa`a, canoe builder, Uncle Mike Adams with assistance from Uncle Boogie Wainui. Our keiki and adult paddlers are also helping with the build. This has been a long journey and a true test for our club. We are excited and look forward to the day our koa canoe meets the ocean.
Nā Kai `Ewalu continues its cultural and educational activities working at Ko`ie`ie Loko I`a, learning chants, paddle making, going on excursions, hula, and lei making to name a few. Also, part of our paddling culture has been voyaging between all the island channels. The voyage around Lana`i has become an annual event that many look forward to paddling. This is the opening of the race season and introduction to the open ocean for many novice paddlers. The voyage is an easy paddle down the west side of Lana`i then around and up the east side to Hulopoe Bay. The club camps overnight at the Bay then paddles back to Canoe Beach the next morning.