BIIF paddling: Paddlers honor ‘Uncle Bo’ at BIIF regatta

  • Members of the Kealakehe varsity boys crew raise their paddles to honor their coach, Uncle Bo Campos, who passed away earlier this week. The crew paddled out to the start line with only five members in the six-person canoe, leaving the steersman seat open. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • A member of the Keaau paddling team wears a heart with the worlds "Uncle Bo" inside to honor the coach who passed away earlier this week. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — It was a day of full hearts and heavy strokes for the Kealakehe paddling team as the Waveriders honored former coach Bo Campos during Saturday’s BIIF regatta at Kailua Pier.

The coach, affectionately known by those in the paddling community as “Uncle Bo,” passed away on Thursday.


A longtime coach of the Kealakehe boys paddling program, Campos also served as president of Kai Opua Canoe Club. Those were just two of the many positions he has held in the world wide paddling community over the years.

His loss was felt by the Waveriders and the rest of the BIIF paddling community during the first westside regatta of the season.

“We are missing Uncle Bo. Some kids felt it more than others, but every stroke we took today was for him,” said Mike Atwood, who coached along side Campos at Kealakehe and with Kai Opua. “He was our guide, our mentor, and though he will be missed, we will use the things he taught us to keep this program moving forward.”

A ceremony was held right before the start of the varsity boys finals to honor the coach.

Five varsity members of the Waveriders’ boys team entered a six person canoe, leaving the steerman seat empty as they paddled to the start line.

“We left that seat open because a steersman guides the canoe and oversees the direction of the paddlers and keeps the team on time and working together, and that is what Uncle Bo did,” Atwood said. “The varsity boys were always his favorite to coach because he would get to coach a lot of them for four years.”

Unfortunately for Kealakehe, the varsity boys did not get to compete in the finals after a uniform infraction disqualified the canoe during an earlier heat. However, that did not put a damper on the ceremony, which also included a moment of silence before Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino led the paddlers in a Hawaiian chant.

“Our kids felt they had accomplished something just getting out there for the heat,” Atwood said. “They especially felt that way after getting out there to honor Uncle Bo.”

Hawaii Preparatory Academy took first place in the varsity boys race with a time of 3 minutes and 58.07 seconds, well head of Waiakea in second at 4:09.20.

Ka Makani’s crew consisted of Kala Thurston, Bennett Varney, Hunter Ellis, Kama Liu, Tain Lawson and Jake Honl-Deguair.

“We moved up three JV paddlers to go with the nucleus of the crew in Jake, Kala and Hunter since we had two paddlers leave early for Christmas break,” said Hawaii Prep coach Mesepa Tanoai. “They put up a pretty fast time in pretty windy conditions.”

Ka Makani took first place in the varsity mixed race with a time of 4:09.09. The team was again led by Thurston, Ellis and Honl-Deguair.

“Our goal today was to see where we have a shot at states and it is looking good,” Tanoai said. “There is a lot of great competition this year and I feel like it will be a strong season for all the teams.”

Kealakehe claimed first in the varsity girls race with a time of 4:44.54.


“We have been working with a couple of new girls and three seniors returning,” Atwood said. “Our main focus so far this season has been technique and getting everyone on the same page. I am happy with their performance.”

The Waveriders also won the JV boys final with a time of 1:45.13. Other winners include Waiakea (JV girls, 2:12.97) and Keaau (JV mix, 1:58.44)

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