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THE HANA HOU SERIES
Wahine o Hawai`i
1999 Kawika Sands

Donna Kahakui

DONNA KAHAKUI:
Recently featured in the August issue of Honolulu Magazine, she was referred to her as a woman who was so far ahead in ability, that she was consistently compared on a level equal to men! When I read this, I knew this was someone I just had to contact! I e-mailed the Editor of Honolulu Magazine with who I was, the Wahine o Hawai`i Series and a request to put me in contact with Donna. She wrote me the next day!

We immediately opened a dialog and through our correspondence, and the questions below, I found out what an interesting woman she really is! She is certainly as passionate about paddling as she is about her other endeavors while doing them all with equal amounts of aloha and "loh-coh" style!

I was glad to have been given perhaps the last interview during her competitive paddling career and I look forward to meeting Donna in person someday in the very near future! I would also like to wish her luck on her "farewell paddle." GEEV`UM BEH-BEH GURL!!!

An interview with Donna Kahakui

1. How did you first get into paddling?

"I was introduced to paddling by Connie Young. She inspired me to paddle and then helped to open the door to long distance. I owe her everything and I have never forgotten her. Currently she is helping me organize paddlers for beach and reef clean-up projects on Hawai`i and her husband, Aaron Young of the Hokule`a, escorts me on all my adventures. I am very fortunate to have the support I had and the support I currently have. I began paddling for Outrigger Canoe Club, Waikiki at age 15. I am currently paddling for Ocean Club Team Waimanalo. We are coached by Steve Scott, one of the best in the sport."

2. How many times have you done Moloka`i?

"I won my first Moloka`i race when I was 17 (that was before the age limit). I Crossed the Kaiwi Channel in 6 man I think about 11 times, lived on the mainland for 6 years and didn't paddle, moved home in 1992 and won again."

3. Tell me about some of your other accomplishments?

"I have been fortunate to have won Catalina, Hawaiki Nui in Tahiti and we just came back from Australia where we won the iron and marathon races. I went to Fiji for World Sprints where we won 500 meters and 1000 meter races and I placed 3rd in rudderless 500 meter one man race. I compete in the Kanaka Ikaika One-Man Series and have been state champ for last two years and hold record in the solo Moloka`i race that I won this year.

I am part of a team that won the sailing canoe race from Maui to O`ahu in a record time of just over 6 hours. We were flying! I've paddled 78 miles from Maui to O`ahu and 140 miles from the Big Island to O`ahu all in the cause of protecting our ocean environment.

I started an organization called Kai Makana of which Nainoa Thompson is executive director. Next June we plan to do a 300 mile paddle from Ketchikan to Juneau in order to connect Hawai`i to Alaska, like our ancestors, as well as learn how to take care of our resources like they do.

I believe that as paddlers we are responsible for protecting the ocean and all that lives within it. That it is our responsibility to ensure the future for the children have what we have today."

4. Any humorous anecdotes?

"Funny stories? Too many to remember, but if I can recall one clearly I'll let you know."

5. Your plans for the future?

"To try to win Moloka`i again and then retire for the next generation. Then I can focus on doing these long paddles to raise money and awareness about our ocean."

6. What advice would you offer an aspiring paddler?

"Size does not matter. Dedication, desire, attitude and technique are the key elements. Have fun, respect the ocean and it will take care of you. It takes 6 to win a canoe race, and your competition will make you a better team.

Every once in a while, take note of what others miss in the ocean i.e the dolphins swimming under the canoe, the turtles glancing at you from the corner of their eyes or the rubbish floating by that you should stop and pick up. You are the future. It is time to take note and take care. It is time for us to step up and come together to protect that which we tend to take for granted."

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Last Modified: Monday - 19991115.12:43 EST
Copyright 1999 Kawika Sands
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