BRAD BALLESTEROS/Stephens Media
Kamehameha Canoe Club’s girls 14 crew paddles Saturday during the Papa Kimitete Regatta at Kailua Bay.
By MICAH LEWTER
Midway through the first regatta of the Moku O Hawaii canoe paddling season, there was a different name in second place.
Kai Ehitu, host club for the Papa Kimitete Regatta, has historically been on the long end of the A division competition. Usually, the Kailua-Kona squad competes in about 17 events or fewer, but on Saturday, the club registered teams in 31 of the 38 events.
Perennial power Kai Opua led almost wire to wire to claim the win with 218 total points. Keauhou Canoe Club eventually took over second place with its dominance in the masters races, totaling 167 points. Keaukaha took third with 131, dropping Kai Ehitu to fourth (124).
But for the host club, the day was a success.
“We’ve got to be excited,” said Richard Kimitete, head coach for Kai Ehitu. “We started off with a bang, and we’ve had teams placing everywhere. Even if they didn’t medal, they had good placing.”
Kai Ehitu won the first points race of the day, the girls 12 division. The crew of Mahinalani Bonomi, Tatiana Macomber, Kealoha Dinson, Nayeli Silva-Kahalewai, Tanya Penovaroff-Diaz and Olivia McKellar finished the quarter-mile race in 2 minutes, 15.10 seconds. Kai Opua took third in 2:17.35.
The club had a strong showing in several youth races. Kai Ehitu won the boys 13 race in 1:55.34 to top Puna by better than 4 seconds (1:59.59). Iokepa Aponte, Kyle Kiyonaga, Wade Rietow, Hiram Anakalea, Tuitahi Faleofa-Taumoefolau and Kawika Lawrence paddled to victory in that race.
Kai Ehitu also took second in girls 13, and girls 16, and third in boys 12, mixed 12 and girls 15.
The club also had strong showings in the novice categories, finishing second in novice B women, novice B men and novice A women. Kai Ehitu finished second in novice A men (Kekoa Spoon, Joel Noa, Hoku Brandt, Lima Kiel, Kyle Ching, Aaron Gabriel Davis, Richard Kimitete) but was declared the winner when Keauhou was disqualified.
Now, the club will try to build on the strengths from Saturday’s race.
“You look at what you did in practice, and if it translates to the regatta, you keep doing that,” Kimitete said. “If it doesn’t work, you see what you need to change.”
The biggest difference between this year’s teams and past squads is depth. In previous years, the club competed in less than half of the races. Once the midpoint of the regatta was passed, the members went home.
But this year, some of the homegrown paddlers are coming back for the older divisions.
But Kimitete cautioned that his club was still a young club. He noted that many of the paddlers competing in the masters races have not been paddling as long as many of the competitors from other clubs.
“I have to give credit to those men, and the women, too,” Kimitete said. “They are competing against people who have done this a lot longer.”