The Na Wahine O Ke Kai was first run in 1979 when 10 va’a competed ….. it had taken 57 years to convince certain men that women could safely paddle the course (& only after 2 women’s crews has secretly made the crossing in 1975)!
Tahiti’s first attempt was in 1984 when Ihilani Teva were forced to retire with a cracked hull. Fare Hotu would thereby become the first Tahitian crew to complete the crossing when they finished 6th in both 1985 & 1986. The Tahitian Outrigger Federation put together a composite team in 1988 but they could finish only 5th. In 1991 Puraruu was 6th before Pirae sent teams in 2002 & 2003 who would finish 8th & 13th respectively. In 2010 Venus was 9th before Punaavia finished 14th in 2013.
In 2014 Team Bora Bora came to Hawaii with a va’a jammed with world champion paddlers. Although they had won their gold medals in still waters there was hope as they had trained extensively in the ocean off Bora Bora. They would finish the race in 6th place but as a leading Hawaiian paddler put it: “The Tahitians looked good. Young. Lot’s of strength……….they can move up in the ranks.”
The event was cancelled in both 1980 & last year, 2015, due to massive seas approaching 10m & extremely strong winds. Teams this year from the American mainland, Japan, Hong Kong & Australia have come to do battle with their Hawaiian counterparts. Team Bradley, who have won 8 of the last 10 Na Wahine O Ke Kais are the logical favourites.
The race got under way in far calmer conditions than had led to the cancellation of last year’s event – a 10-15 knot breeze from the north, the swell just tipping 1m – conditions which meant paddlers would work exceptionally hard for their victory . The favourites moved quickly to the front with Outrigger Canoe Club heading Lanikai who began powerfully & headed slightly north of of the leading pack, Hui Nalu, Waikiki Beach Boys & Team Bradley were just behind.
Team Bradley would slowly but surely move through the field to take the lead from Outrigger Canoe Club by the middle of the race. Lanikai continued to threaten from the north – the winds & swells around Oahu could well play a determinant role in the event. Hui Nalu & Waikiki Beach Boys would make up those likely to challenge for a position on the podium. These 5 teams would hold their relative positions & courses across to the Oahu mainland.
As the team’s paths started to converge off Diamond Head Team Bradley continued to lead from Outrigger Canoe Club, with Hui Nalu closely pursued by Waikiki Beach Boys & just ahead of Lanikai. They would finish in this order – special congratulations to Team Bradley who have now won 9 of the last 11 contested Na Wahine O Ke Kais.
Although Bora Bora will not be represented this year, Bora Bora Insider is covering the event as we remain convinced that the performance of Team Bora Bora in 2014 laid the foundations for a Tahitian victory in this, the world championship of women’s outrigger paddling.
The paddlers in Team Bora Bora were unavailable this year having found employment in the various luxury resorts with their world famous over-water bungalows in this the most beautiful island in the world, but the backbone of a great team & the envy to win is firmly in place.
In the interim the Tahitian men paddlers will head to Hawaii at the beginning of next month for the running of the Molokai Hoe, an event they have not lost for 10 years consecutively!
Given the opportunity, the women paddlers from Tahiti can realise the same feat.