By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
In 1987, a young Layne Luna decided to train for a state bodybuilding contest and then never followed through.
“I didn’t get to do it, and I blame myself for not doing it,” Luna said in a recent interview. “I was 22 at the time and it bothered me that I never got to compete in the event. It stuck with me over the years knowing I could of, would of or should have done it and what might have happened.”
Luna, now 48 and a Keaau High School video and special education teacher, chalked up the experience as “unfinished business” until he turned 45 and started training again.
“This time, I had more discipline, I started eating correctly and watching my diet,” Luna said. “And Naea Lindsey started coaching me. He’s a master of using carbs, water and other training and diet techniques to get you ready for competition.
“Naea cooks his own food without sodium, and he does everything all natural. He really helped get me ready and Sodie Kabalis — ‘The Guru of Bodybuilding in Hilo’ — gave me some great advice. Sodie has won a lot of bodybuilding titles and knows the right way to train and diet.”
On June 15, a sleek and confident Luna competed in the 2013 Ikaika Bodybuilding Championships at the Neal Blaisdell Arena Concert Hall in Honolulu. Since there was no masters division, he participated in the middleweight novice division against mostly contestants in their 20s.
“I was 165 pounds and not as big as some of the other guys who were 175 pounds or more,” Luna said. “But bodybuilding is not about just size, it’s more about symmetry and how you look. I tried to do more of a classic pose, not a hulking pose.”
In preliminary judging, Luna found himself competing against guys 20 years younger, but he felt good on stage.
“I had lost 60 pounds in seven months,” he said. “And I felt Naea and Sodie helped get me ready. I entered the competition just for fun and to see what happened. But it was intimidating being there.”
Luna then felt an emotional rush when he was named the winner of the middleweight novice division.
“After all of those years of feeling I was a failure, I cried and all that weight that I carried all of those years for not competing the first time was lifted off my back,” Luna said. “I also earned the best poser award, and then went to thank all of the other competitors.”
During his time in front of the crowd in the divisional judging, Luna posed to the song “All in Love is Fair,” sung by Cecilio & Kapono.
“It’s a beautiful song,” he said. “I was filled with emotion and all that I was going through at that time. I cried and I could see some of the people in the crowd were crying, too.”
Luna then went up against all the division winners for the top overall winner.
“I stayed strong throughout and took pride in what I was doing,” he said. “I was not the overall winner. But when I was posing, I could see all the other guys on stage and decided to take a step back and let them pose off.
“Naea told me to get back in there, but I was satisfied with first place in the middleweight novice division and the best poser award. I wanted to give those other guys a chance to show their hard work. And I hope to keep on training and hopefully come back in 10 months — and maybe win all three awards.”
Luna also wore his “good luck” red trunks for the finals, taking a suggestion from his daughter, Hillary, who was a wrestling champion at Hilo High School and winner of the 2012 Miss Teen Lehua Hawaii scholarship pageant.
“Hillary wore red in the pageant and felt it was good luck,” Layne Luna said. “I wore gold trunks in the preliminary judging, and then switched to red in the finals.”
But regardless of the trunk colors, it was Luna’s dedicated training under Lindsey that prepared him for his memorable time on stage.
“I’m thankful for all Naea did,” Luna said. “He gave me a chance to be a different person. He helped make me an athletic champion in this sport. It was a lot of training and eating the right way. To get ready for the state championships, I trained every day, twice a day, for two weeks heading into the event.
“Naea coaches at Penn Gym and is one of the most valuable trainers/coaches in the sport, especially in dieting. I’ve been training with him for three years and haven’t been sick one day.”
“During my training, I ate chicken breasts, veggies and sweet potatoes every single day,” Luna said. “I had to stay on a strict diet and for months, I couldn’t go wild eating on Thanksgiving, Christmas and those other special days. I had to stay low in fat, low in sodium, and high in carbs. In dieting, it’s everything in moderation and eating the right things for your body.”
Since winning the middleweight novice division on Oahu, Luna, who is also a fine artist who does murals for museums, said Lindsey wants him to add six pounds and move up to the open masters division.
“To do that, it would take me a year to add those six pounds,” Luna said. “I’m still deciding what I’m going to do. But I may go back to train for health. It’s a different mindset training for a competition.”
No matter what happens, Luna took care of his unfinished business from over two decades ago and now can move ahead knowing that anything is possible with the right mindset and hard work.