Fate of certain ocean sports events still up in the air

  • The Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Association club presidents will vote June 12 on whether to hold long distance races this summer.

Ocean sports are back on, but it remains to be seen when the surf will be up for Big Island competitions.

Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that ocean sports such as surfing, canoeing and swimming events will be allowed to resume beginning June 1, but the edict appears to have come too late to salvage the Big Island Pro-Am Surfing Trials. The event has been canceled for the second consecutive year, organizer Stan Lawrence said.

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The holding period for the annual competition at Honolii usually begins in June and was held for the 35th time in 2019.

“We weren’t sure what the protocols were going to be, and we would have hated to have someone get sick,” Lawrence said.

The Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Association canceled its regatta season in March, and the organization’s president, Doug Bumatay of Paddlers of Laka, said the 14 member clubs will vote June 12 on whether to hold long distance races.

“With the recent relaxation of COVID restrictions, it looks like we potentially could have a season,” Bumatay said.

Under normal circumstances, the long distance season would already have begun.

“Starting midstream is going to be tough for a lot of the clubs,” Bumatay said.

Another complicating factor is clubs are still beholden to a limit on allowable participants, which for a noncontact sport such as paddling still stands at 50. The Hawaiian Island Paddlesports Association held several races earlier this year while following the 50-person threshold, HIPA board member Jane Bockus said.

The maximum allowable number could increase if Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth’s newest proposal is approved by Ige, but Kai Opua president Mike Atwood was unsure it would be enough to comfortably hold a long-distance race.

“I think it depends on the location,” he said. “Hilo Bay might work as far as the number of people.”

Atwood said his club is still planning to hold the Queen Liliuokalani races in September in Kailua-Kona, in some fashion.

“The only determining factor is how many people we can get on (Kailua) pier,” he said. “We’re optimistic things are moving in the right direction as far as social distancing.”

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In the meantime, Kai Opua launched a scrimmage series last weekend at Kamakahonu Beach in Kailua-Kona. Juniors will start competing this Saturday. The series, which runs through July 31, includes four heats, with seven six-person canoes per heat.

“We’re keeping times, but it’s more of a friendly competition,” Atwood said.

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