Nick Muragin grew up in what he refers to as “a Waiakea rodeo family,” riding bulls from the time he was “around 5 or 6,” which, admittedly, is not the way a lot of keiki were raised on the Big Island, but the linkage to the past is a long one.
Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver visited in 1793, “unsure how he would be received,” according to the book Aloha Rodeo, written by David Wolman and Julian Smith. His uncertainty arose after Captain James Cook was bludgeoned to death on the beach at Kealakekua in “cultural misunderstandings of some kind” in 1778. Vancouver was a 21 year-old seaman on that trip and was dispatched with others to retrieve Cook’s body and give it proper burial at sea.
When he came back in 1793, Vancouver landed at Kealakekua Bay where the book says he exchanged gifts with King Kamehameha, leaving five cows, two rams and two ewes. The Hawaiians had no idea what to do with the beasts, which were aggressive toward them, and ran off into the hills. Over time, those numbers grew and the wild cattle were an ornery bunch that needed to be contained by the paniolo, who became rodeo types long before the name was given to wild west celebrations decades later on the mainland.
So, the history of rodeo in Hawaii stretches far beyond what is know as cowboy challenges on the mainland.
Much of those paniolo congregated in and around the Parker Ranch, but some, like Muragin’s family, found their way toward Hilo. Muragin, 51, loved the cattle games he grew up with, but the thrill didn’t last long into adulthood.
“It was a short career,” he said last week. “I just got burned out from being beaten up so much, just over and over, every time. One day I decided I’d had enough, I walked away and never went back.”
That was in his mid-20s, but it took until he was in his 40s for this heavy equipment operator to find something else to fire his spirit.
“I don’t remember the exact day or anything, but it was 2010 that I had quit smoking, I started feeling an energy rush I hadn’t felt in years and I just wanted to burn it off some, so I decided to go run,” he said. “I tried to run a mile and I couldn’t do it at first, that was a real feat, it was very difficult for me to get that first mile in because I didn’t know how to run, I didn’t know anything.”
One day he finished that mile and experienced his first runner’s high.
“Wow, that was so cool,” Muragin said, “I thought I might never get that again, but no, I found you get that feeling all the time. My first 5K? I did not think I could do it, but, what a rush to finish it, that’s what got me going.”
Oh, he’s been going, all right. Muragin is one of East Hawaii’s top distance runners, along with Billy Barnett and Justin Young, having recently completed a 22-mile run, a 50K and he’s currently training for the Peacock 55-miler next month on Oahu.
“One thing leads to another,” he said by way of explanation. “I never thought I could run a mile, then a 5K, a 10K and then a marathon, now I want more.”
He trains about 50-60 miles a week, drinks 80 ounces of water daily to keep his body hydrated, and he’ll get in 8 miles or so a day, leading up to a long run of about 24 miles every Saturday.
“It’s a lifestyle at this point,” he said, “when you train like this, it becomes a huge part of your day, every day, and that includes a day off. Sometimes I feel like I can’t run 10 miles, it’s no fun, I’m not getting anything out of it.
“Then I go, ‘Duh, dummy,’ and I take a day off and rest up.”
Hard work doesn’t really capture the intensity of it each day, but at the end of the day, he feels like he’s in great shape and his body shows it, something that never happened when he was riding rodeo bulls all day.
Ever watched motor sports at any level and had the thought, “It’s just driving, I could do that?”
Saturday presents another opportunity to put your personal assumptions to the test when kart racing rules the day again at the Hilo Go-Kart track, adjacent to the Hilo Drag Strip, with three classes of racing machines, some of which you can hop into and take for a spin.
First-timers have to begin in the lower horsepower karts that use a 10 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine that gets you going 40-45 mph around the tight track. The midrange engines are 15 horsepower and can go 50-55 mph, while the upper-end karts have about 30 horsepower and can get up to 65 mph, though all three levels will go much faster on a longer track.
There will be motorcycles racing, there will be young people, old people and women racers taking their turns. Racing usually starts around 10 a.m., but drivers, owners, mechanics all arrive by 8 to clean off the track with brooms and blowers to get it ready for safe competition.
You might look for Kuhia Naipo-Arsiga, a 10 year-old who tried a kart recently, putted around the course and by the end of the day he was “putting it sideways in the corners,” said Ron Carter, of the kart group. “(His family) bought that kart, took it home, completely disassembled it, painted it, put it back together and it’s ready to race.
Naipo-Garcia is one of four or five youngsters who come out and race, though most competitors are adults. The Karts race twice a month, usually with three 12-lap races with testing and cycles running in-between.
Think you have the right stuff? For $5 you can sign a waiver fee and give a shot.
The last weekend of the 2019 season is history for the Hilo Trollers, with the announcement of the fisherman of the year on hold for the annual club banquet Oct. 19 at Nani Mau.
One certainty is that club President C.J. Lewis will not become a three-time winner of the event after claiming the last two victories and assuming the role of chief organizer.
This season, Lewis fished only one tournament and has spent much of his time with his wife working on numerous organizational details with the club.
The final tournament, a two-day affair over Labor Day, is the only two-day tournament the club hosts and it had 20 vessels on hand each day, with the biggest pulled in by the Carla H, with a 175.1 pound marlin, one of 10 marlin landed over the two days.
Going into the final tournament, the leader was the Kealani, captained by Nathan Harris, but the final tournament, twice as long as the other monthly competitions, opens the door for everyone to make a big haul.
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