Keoua’s November To Remember, 1990



By: Rafael Ramírez

January 1991, Kealakekua, Hawai’i

As the 1990 paddling year comes to an end, Keoua’s paddlers busily make plans to fight off the boredom following the October Turnover* in the Molokai Hoe Channel Race. We decide to reclaim the South Kona coast as ours, by undertaking a three-day paddling and camping expedition. We will launch our double-hulled canoe at Ka Lae, South Point on the Big Island and proceed northward to our home waters at Honaunau. After much discussion and input, the details begin to fall into place.

* During the Molokai Hoe in October, our escort boat, the Chop Suey Girl, belonging to Uncle Moses Kalilikane of Molokai, capsized in 10-foot seas nearing Portlock and was towed to Oahu. Most of our gear was lost at sea but our three alternates, support crew and our race official were picked up by a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat and taken to Waikiki, where they joined us several hours later. We paddled without changes for the final 2 ½ hours of the race.


We will paddle from Ka Lae to Kaupua’a, the green sand beach at Road to the Sea, and camp overnight. A support crew will meet us there with camping gear, food, drink, etc. On the second day, we will paddle to Honomalino and camp again with the aid of our support crew. Finally, on the third day, we will reach Honaunau and celebrate our journey.


On Thursday, November 15, we’ll trailer our canoes and surfskis to South Point, camp overnight and get an early start on Friday, November 16, for the first leg of our trip. We plan to arrive in Honaunau on Sunday, November 18, 1990.


We’ve decided to take Kanaloa and Keoua Elua, two of our fiberglass canoes, rigged together, as well as two surfskis and a surfboard lashed to the canoes. Everyone will bring free-diving gear, spears, and food/water for each leg of the trip. The support crew will transport the camping gear, main food & water supply, and anything that we can’t carry in the canoes, from one campsite to another. We’ll also take fishing rods for trolling along the way, a cross net, and cameras to document the journey. I decide to also bring a small, folding anchor and 60 feet of nylon rope, just in case…!


As the departure date draws near, we have about ten paddlers committed, some tentatively due to jobs, family obligations, etc. Finally, on the afternoon of November 15th, the canoes and surfskis are loaded on the trailer and transported to South Point to set up our first campsite, before embarking on our expedition the following morning. I will join them before daybreak on the 16th. In command of our crew is Kurtis Yamauchi, the head coach; the rest of the paddlers are Kawika “Running Bare” Spaulding, Dave Kermott, Steve Caverly, Big John Emrick, Iron James Goodman, Princess Diana Wolking, Danny Mack, Sam Fry, and Wild Bill Kinney, who joins us at the end of the first day’s paddle. The support crew consists of Katharine Howard and Luanne Trevina, who’ll transport our camping gear, food & water supplies, from one campsite to the next, as well as prepare the meals, a most important component of our trip.

IN THE BEGINNING- Friday, November 16th, 1990

There was heavy rain and wind as I approached South Point early in the pre-dawn darkness. I left home at 4 AM and reached the campsite near the Ka’u boat ramp at 5:30 AM. As I drove up, my headlights revealed a nomad like assortment of plastic tarps flapping in the cold wind, dome tents, and several half-awake heads peering from their sleeping bags. It had been a hard day’s night with plenty of wind-driven rain but by all accounts, an excellent dinner which made up for the discomfort.

As daybreak slowly approached, we exchanged greetings, lit the stove and started a pot of Kona coffee as well as oatmeal. One by one, our crew came out of their nests and began preparing for the long day ahead. After some coffee and oatmeal, we held a safety meeting and began breaking camp, moving the canoes to the boat ramp in order to rig them. Katharine loaded up all our camping gear and left since she had to go to work that day. She would meet us in late afternoon with Luanne and Wild Bill at Kaupua’a-Road to the Sea. We proceed to rig the canoes, load up all our gear and surf skis, as well as Danny’s surfboard, and by 7:30 AM, we’re ready to go!

Looking out to sea, there are whitecaps and a steady swell breaking just outside the small cove at Ka’u. After taking some photos and carrying the canoes down the slippery ramp, we each take our seats, grab our paddles and wait for the signal to begin from Kurtis. I say a silent prayer: “May no harm or danger befall upon us…” We see only one fishing boat out at sea and it looks like it’s on a roller coaster. It’s now 7:40 AM

“Paddles up… Huki!

Our canoe glides forward and meets a breaker head on; I up the stroke, we cut through a few more breakers and turn right, heading for the point. We slowly warm up as we paddle steadily towards Ka Lae and round the point. The canoe is moving smoothly through moderate though windy seas and in 35 minutes we have reached the cliffs at Kahuku and are out of the wind. We have made it past what we thought would be the hardest part of the journey so we stop to rest, hold a safety meeting and gaze at the beauty around us. The water is calm and crystal-clear and we see a honu taking a peek at us. On our way to the cliffs, we’ve also seen several large kaku- barracuda speeding on top of the water. These, we feel, are good luck signs.

Everyone is feeling great; Kurtis pulls out his fishing rods and prepares to troll when we resume paddling. However, one rod falls in the water and several paddlers jump in to retrieve it. After several dives, we realize that the bottom is almost 50 feet below us. We also begin to drift and lose sight of the rod. I don my mask, snorkel and fins, then jump in to look for it. Soon, one of the boys spots the pole and I swim to the canoe to get my anchor and rope. After several attempts to snag it with the anchor, the pole slowly comes up from the bottom; one of the divers meets it halfway and retrieves it. We laugh and celebrate our good fortune so far. We’d thought the anchor was extra weight on the trip!

We resume paddling and ten minutes later, hook up! Kurtis has a fish on the line and we stop paddling while he fights the fish. The pole is bent double as we maneuver the canoe towards open ocean to prevent the fish from diving for the bottom and snagging or breaking the line on the rough coral. After a 15-minute struggle, we see the leader coming up; Steve grabs it and the ulua comes alongside the canoe then lands inside. It looks like a 20 pounder! We take photos and celebrate again.

With our spirits high, the paddling seems easier, we’re making steady progress northward; we look around at the shoreline and the distant silhouette of Mauna Loa with its long black lava flows cascading down to meet the sea. They look like superhighways to the sky. The wind is picking up again and some water is coming in from time to time, as we head for the point north of the big cinder cone, Pu’u Ki, near Keliuli Bay. We paddle into a strong current with the wind at our backs, bailing sporadically. The waves are getting bigger and more water is coming in over the gunwales. We’re now bailing in earnest as we paddle, knowing that swamping could spell disaster and the end of our trip!

A big wave comes in and I feel the water level rising in the front of the canoe; Dave Kermott and I are stroking and we both yell, “bail water”. Another wave comes in and we jump out of the canoes to lighten the load. I check my watch; it’s 10:40 AM and the sky is hazy but with few clouds. We count heads to make sure everyone is OK and transfer all our gear from Kanaloa to Keoua Elua. While some of us try to bail out Kanaloa, the rest are gathering loose gear floating past us and holding on to the canoe hulls.

I see Diana with an armful of paddles, trying to swim to the canoe, so I send Danny after her with his surfboard. He collects the paddles and returns to the canoe. Meanwhile, Diana is swimming towards the canoe, but the current is making it difficult and she’s falling behind. By this time, we’re paddling and bailing, headed towards the nearest point, making almost no headway into the current. I am now steering Keoua Elua from the front seat, with Kanaloa on my left, full of water. There are three people in the canoe with me, paddling and bailing when necessary. We know that Keoua Elua must stay afloat if we want to make it to shore. I keep looking back for Diana; she still hasn’t reached the canoe. I ask if she’s OK but get no answer. Finally, Danny goes after her in the surfboard and brings her back. What a relief! Now, we can look forward and concentrate on getting to safety; we’re all working together, pushing and pulling the canoes, taking turns paddling and bailing.

After an hour of this, we spot a small Cessna flying overhead and wave our paddles. The pilot acknowledges us circling once and a dip of his wings. We are not alone now; he will radio for help. Soon, we see a trawler on the western horizon but it keeps going south; no help there! Another hour goes by and in the distance, we see a red & yellow chopper flying south following the highway. It turns and heads out to sea in our direction; finally, we think, help is on the way! The Fire & Rescue chopper swoops down and hovers above us, counting heads and assessing the situation. Dave is now on his surfski but they tell him not to wander away from the canoe; they want us to stay together for our own safety. A diver drops out of the chopper and swims to our canoe, asks if we’re OK. He tells us that a rescue boat has been launched from Keauhou but will take at least three hours to reach us. He suggests that we be taken ashore in the chopper, leaving two paddlers with the canoe. We assure him that we can make it, so he takes Diana aloft in a basket and drops her off on shore. The chopper then lands atop the cliffs and stands by while we continue to paddle towards Keliuli Bay and calmer waters. We seemed to be making no progress until the last 500 yards, when the current must have shifted and we finally reached a small shallow cove, out of the wind and current.

In minutes, we were able to bail the water out of Kanaloa and reinforce the rigging, which had come loose due to the stress and buffeting of the wind and current. We redistributed our gear in the two hulls and were ready to continue to the nearest beach so we could land the canoes and rest our tired arms. We’d been paddling and swimming for more than three hours without rest and the closest beach was still a mile away at Pohue Bay. The chopper agreed to meet us there, making sure that we were all safe. With Dave and Steve in their surf skis, we paddled on to Pohue Bay and landed for the first time since our departure at 7:40 AM. It was now after 2:00PM.

The beach at Pohue was a beautiful white sand beach with a small cabin belonging to Kahuku Ranch. We saw several honu in the water and a short exploration revealed an empty turtle nest with broken eggshells, near a crevice in the rocks. The chopper radioed the rescue boat to turn back, since we were confident that we could make it unassisted the last two miles to our campsite at the green sand beach near Road to the Sea. We were alone again but feeling strong and exuberant after our ordeal. We regrouped at the cabin, held a safety meeting, took some photos and prepared to paddle the 2 ½ miles to our campsite, where Katharine and Luanne would meet us with food and shelter.

With the two surfskis leading the way, we leave Pohue with eight paddlers in the canoe. The wind and waves pick up again but the canoe is handling a lot better it seems, without the extra weight. However, water is still coming in from time to time, so we bail constantly to make sure we don’t swamp again. In less than a half hour, we approach the green sand beach at Kaupua’a, where Dave and Steve land their surf skis and guide us in. I steer the canoe into the beach and we all jump out and pull it up on the sand.

The beach is so narrow that the bows of the two hulls are still in the water. We realize that with the pounding surf, we can’t leave them on the beach overnight. After some discussion, we unrig the canoes and carry each one to higher ground about 50 yards away, over an embankment, and onto the old coastline trail. Now it’s time to find a place out of the wind to set up camp and wait for our support crew. It’s now 4:00 PM and it has started to rain.

We reach a spot behind some rocks and huddle together for warmth, waiting for Katharine and Luanne. Kawika and a few others go exploring and come back, telling us that there’s a better, more sheltered place to set up camp. We pick up all our gear and move, only to return to our original site within minutes. It was much windier at the other spot, so we settle down, shivering until Luanne arrived at 4:30 PM. When her Wagoneer drove up, we all converged on the hood and hugged it for warmth; what a feeling! We showered Luanne with kisses and started telling her our story, while we pitched our tents and set up the stove, started a fire, etc.

A short while later, Katharine drove up with Wild Bill, the rest of our gear, and the food! Russ “the Doc” Reese had brought back some fresh moose meat from Wyoming and that would be part of our dinner that night, moose steaks! We also had a cooler full of Steinlagers so we held a safety meeting that lasted well into the night. With the wind blowing steadily all night, we had to decide whether it’d be safe to continue as planned the next day, or an alternative plan. We agreed to wait till morning to see how the weather and ocean looked. If it were too rough, we’d bring the trailer down and take the canoes to Miloli’i, where we’d camp that night to resume the final leg on Sunday. With that settled, we sat down to a hearty meal which included the ‘ulua that Kurtis had caught much earlier that day. Before long, everyone was cuddled up in their tents or sleeping bags, resting sore muscles and awaiting the next day.

SATURDAY MORNING, November 17, 1990

After a cold, windy night (but no rain), we wake up one by one and prepare breakfast. Looking out to sea, there are white caps everywhere and the waves seem bigger than the previous day. The small green sand beach where we landed yesterday is shimmering in the early morning light. Another honu surfaces and looks at us curiously, then dives in the clear blue water. I feel sore from sleeping on the ground and have a slight headache, probably from the beers the night before!

We discuss our options for the day and decide to trailer the canoes out of there and take them to Miloli’i. Danny and Luanne leave to get the trailer in Honaunau, while Katharine has to go to work. I catch a ride with her to Ka’u, where I left my car. I planned to meet the gang at Miloli’i but on the way there, it starts pouring rain and I have no wipers. My brakes are shot too, so the descent to Miloli’i would be dangerous, so I choose to go home and come back with my truck. When I get home, the truck is gone so I lie down to watch TV and fall asleep. I awake that evening, rested and ready to go but decide to leave early in the morning and rejoin the crew at Miloli’i before 7 AM. On Sunday morning, I head for Miloli’i at 6 AM; it has rained non-stop all night and the radio reports flooding on all roads island-wide. As I approach Miloli’i Road, I see Kurtis and Luanne’s trucks headed back to Kona. Halfway down to Miloli’i, I see the canoe out at sea already. Although it’s raining steadily, the ocean looks calm. I turn around and drive to the ‘ili’ili beach at Kaohe, hoping to intercept the canoes when they go by there.

After waiting for half an hour, the canoes come into view and I wave to them. Dave is on his surfski, closest to shore, but he doesn’t see or hear me. They continue on their way to Honaunau so I drive home to sit back and watch the Forty-Niners-Buccaneers game, capping a perfect Keoua weekend!

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The ‘Ahu’ula and Mahiole of Kalani’opu’u Return to Hawai’i


adding flavor and texture to your world through story

ʻUla ka moana i ka ʻahu ʻula a me ka mahiole: the Ocean is made red with feathered cloaks and helmets



“Kauluwela ka moana i nā ʻauwaʻa kaua o Kalaniʻōpuʻu. Aia nā koa ke ʻaʻahu lā i ko lākou mau ʻahu ʻula o nā waihoʻoluʻu like ʻole o kēlā a me kēia ʻano. E huila ʻōlinolino ana nā maka o kā lākou mau pololū me nā ihe i mua o nā kukuna o ka lā.”[1]

The sea glowed brightly because of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s swarming fleet of war canoes. The warriors were dressed in feather cloaks of all different colors. The points of their long spears and javelins flashed brightly before the rays of the sun.


I can only imagine what it must have looked like, an ocean colored by millions of delicate feathers. If I close my eyes, I can picture the deep reds and bright yellows draped across the backs of our ancient chiefs. I can see them; I can feel them.

Yesterday, I sat a few short feet away from Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s ʻahu ʻula and mahiole, his feathered cloak and helmet. And as they lay before me, I closed my eyes for a brief moment and pictured them in movement, pictured them on the body of our chief, pictured their tiny red and yellow feathers on an ocean, rustling in the wind, full of life. I could see them; I could feel them.

So I whispered a small greeting, as I have many times before, and as the hours passed and as the space around me filled with chants and songs, with the familiar sounds of ʻōlelo and te reo mixing and rolling off tongues, the wind shook the whare and I said my goodbye.

It was like saying goodbye to a loved one, to a family member, one who I knew I would see again, but one that I would miss terribly. They would be going home, back to Hawaiʻi, back to our people, back to our lāhui. And as I sat there, I could not help but shed tears for all that they have come to mean to me, for all that they have inspired in me, for all that they will continue to inspire in my people.

Today I continue to shed tears as a write, carrying an emotion that I cannot quite describe: a mix of extreme gratitude and deep aloha, a mix of happiness accompanied by hope, and on a very personal level, a mix of protectiveness deepened by a sense of responsibility. Although I know that my story is small in the larger history of this remarkable cloak and helmet, I share it because I feel compelled to do so, perhaps as a means of bringing our attention back to them, to these taonga, these treasured items, these mea makamae, to their lives, to their journey, to their future.

Much has been said in the past few weeks about the return of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s cloak and helmet: some are in support of their journey home while others are not, some are worried about their new association with certain state organizations, and some are concerned that they will be placed at the center of what has become a heated (and sometimes ugly) political terrain. I appreciate what has been said and shared. It has inspired debate and dialogue, which is extremely important. And while this may or may not add to the conversation, I write this because I feel a responsibility to do so: to honor them, to look after them, to love and care and celebrate them for the impact that they have had on generations of people.

When our Hawaiian scholars took to the newspapers in the nineteenth century to record the lives of our ancient chiefs, they described their exploits and adventures in detail, as if each small event was like a tiny feather, seemingly insignificant on its own, but in context, completely necessary. One such writer was Joseph Poepoe who, between 1905 and 1906, recorded the story of Kamehameha in the Hawaiian language newspaper named for the famous chief, Ka Naʻ Aupuni. While writing about Kamehameha and his celebrated uncle, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, he described many battles, looked at prophecy and strategy, highlighting training and skill. And in his descriptions, he also spoke of the sight of ʻahu ʻula and mahiole. When warring chiefs traveled over cliff sides, they turned the land red with ʻahu ʻula. And when they boarded their war canoes, “ʻike maila i ka ʻula pū aku o ka moana i nā ʻahu ʻula a me nā mahiole” their opponents saw the ocean turn red with feathered cloaks and helmets, with millions of tiny red feathers.[2]

I can only imagine what they must have thought, what warriors must have thought when they saw their cliff sides turn red with soldiers and chiefs adorned in ʻahu ʻula and mahiole. And I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch the ocean go red. While I cannot say for certain what they must have felt, I am sure that it inspired something, whether fear and dread, whether hatred and anger, or whether even awe and a bit of amazement. I’m sure they saw them; I’m sure they felt them.

Two hundred and thirty seven years ago, Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s ʻahu ʻula and mahiole were gifted to Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay. Although Captain Cook never left the island, these treasured items did, making their way aboard ship to England where they were viewed by thousands in a strange land. What curiosity they must have inspired. Perhaps they became tokens of a far away place and culture, a “far away” people. Perhaps they too were exoticized, romanticized, or perhaps even degraded and disrespected. Perhaps they weren’t. While I am not sure what an English man or woman must have thought looking at the deep reds and bright yellows of our chiefs, or what reactions would have been stirred within them, I am sure that they must have stirred something.

While they were away, things changed, lives in Hawaiʻi changed. After the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, a writer in the Hawaiian language newspaper, Ke Aloha ʻĀina, seemed to lament the fact that some of their people had never seen an ʻahu ʻula, perhaps a mahiole, or even other chiefly symbols like kāhili, feathered standards. Thus, in 1901, an invitation was put out for people to go to Wakinekona Hale, the home of the deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani, to see them: “E hōʻike i ko kākou aloha aliʻi ʻoiaʻiʻo i mua o nā malihini o na ʻāina e e noho pū nei i waena o kākou, i ʻike mai ai lākou he mea nui ka Mōʻīiwahine iā kākou, kona lāhui.”[3] The article states: “Let us show our true love for our chiefs in front of all of the foreigners from other lands who now live amongst us, so that they will see that our Queen still means a great deal to us, her nation.”

For a people learning to live with the overthrow of their Queen and the subsequent illegal annexation of their kingdom to the United States, I can only imagine what the sight of an ʻahu ʻula must have inspired in them: honor and gratitude, sadness and longing, or perhaps love and a deepening commitment to aloha ʻāina, a renewed and inspired sense of patriotism. Generations prior, ʻahu ʻula turned oceans red; they covered hill sides as warriors marched to battle. They adorned our chiefs and stood as symbols of rank and mana. In 1901, however, it seems that their appearances in public became rare. Thus, to view a cloak and helmet then surely must have stirred something.

In 1912, when Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s ʻahu ʻula and mahiole were unexpectedly gifted to New Zealand, they became part of the national museum’s collection and have been here since. I write this from New Zealand, in the country that they will leave in a few short hours. When I first came here nearly four years ago, I knew that I had to visit them. Thus, on my second day in the country, I went to Te Papa Tongarewa and found them tucked into a dark space in the museum, alone and somewhat separated from everything else. After that day, back in 2012, they became my personal puʻuhonua, my personal site of refuge and safety in a new place thousands of miles from home. I visited often, whenever I needed a piece of Hawaiʻi, whenever I needed to reconnect, to recenter, or to find guidance. I talked to them and I shared my life with them, imagining that if I felt lonely so far away from home that perhaps they did as well. They stirred something in me then; they stir something in me still.

A little over a week ago, I stood next to the ʻahu ʻula and mahiole, chanting before them, to them, and around them in anticipation of their upcoming departure. And as I chanted, I pictured the moana, the ocean that they would once again cross. These sacred symbols of our chiefs would be making their way home, not by waʻa, but by plane, leaving a trail of histories along the way, turning the ocean red once again, this time with ancestral memories. Standing there next to them, as I had many times before, I thought about my many visits. Since moving here, I have learned to cease thinking of them as relics from the past, but have come to embrace them as pieces of our past that have lived to the present and that stir our hearts and minds contemporarily. I see them; I feel them.

Thus, for one last time, I marveled at their beauty and at the skill of my ancestors, and as I stood there, thinking about our history, I realized that each generation of people has seen and understood them differently, always revealing something about the times in which they lived. What a Hawaiian in 1779 must have thought at the sight of an ʻahu ʻula and mahiole—treasured items that were apparently so abundant that they could turn oceans red—would have been drastically different than what a Hawaiian in 1901 would have thought, just a few short years after the illegal annexation of Hawaiʻi. And these reactions and inspirations are different than what filled me when I first lay eyes on them, a contemporary Hawaiian woman who was raised in the years following the Hawaiian Renaissance, who was raised with hula, who was raised to value ʻāina, and who was raised to be an aloha ʻāina. My interpretation of them will always be a product of the present, of who and what we are now, of where and when we happen to be today.

That brings me back to today. I think about these mea makamae and all that they mean to me, and I shed tears once again for what they will come to mean for all of those people who will now get to greet them, to welcome them home, and to embrace them as I have here. They have inspired a range of emotions and reactions throughout the generations. Therefore, while I cannot say what they will bring out of those who will get to see them and visit with them, I am sure that they will stir something: perhaps a sense of hope, perhaps a dream of unity, perhaps a remembrance of strength and pride, perhaps a sense of kuleana. I look forward to seeing what they will come to represent, what they will teach us about ourselves, and how we will continue to talk about, write about, speak, sing, and dance about their existence as a means of further exploring our own.

I can only imagine it. So, I close my eyes once again, picturing them in movement, imagining an ocean made red. They have been two of my most profound teachers in the last four years. They have taught me of responsibility; they have taught me of honor, respect, and humility. They have taught me to consider all that we can do and all that we will do, to leave our mark on history. My efforts may not be as great as Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s, or my story as grand. However, when I looked at them yesterday, as the ceremonies and protocols were being carried on around me—in a mix of Hawaiian and Māori customs—I smiled, quieted my head and heart, and blessed their journey across the ocean, this time perhaps as a reminder of ʻula, of the red that can and shall unite us

E ʻula pū ana nō ka moana i ka ʻahu ʻula.



[1] Poepoe, J. (1905, 7 Dec.) Ka moolelo o Kamehameha I: Ka nai aupuni o Hawaii, Ka Nai Aupuni, p. 1.

[2] Poepoe, J. (1906, 12 Sep.). Ka moolelo o Kamehamea I: Ka nai aupuni o Hawaii, Ka Nai Aupuni, p. 1.

[3] He ike alii nui i ike mua ole ia ma hope mai o ke kahuli aupuni (1901, 24 Aug.). Ke Aloha Aina, p. 1.

Author: emalani

I write, read, dance, and study stories that span the Pacific. From my island home in Hawaiʻi, to the shores of Tahiti, to the mountains of Aotearoa, I travel over ancient pathways, sharing stories along the way.


  1. Such a good read!!! Such a blessing, to have you take us to witness this cloak!

  2. My daughter flew from Auckland to Honolulu yesterday, March 12, on the Hawaiian Airlines flight bringing the cloak to Hawaii.
    The airline gave free tickets to all passengers for the Bishop Museum show commemorating the cloak to be held on March 20.
    Your article and story is wonderful. Mahalo.

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35th Annual Mac-A-Thon 2016 ~ 10k Run & 5k walk/run

The 35th annual Mac-A-Thon, 10k run & 5k walk/run, will be held this year on March 26th, at 7am! For online registration, just click on the Mac-a-Thon tab located above. You can also contact Jene’ Green at 808-443-4670 or Rafael Ramirez at 808-238-4150 for more information.

For those of you who have registered already, you can pick up your swag bags and race numbers on Friday the 25th between 4pm-6pm at our Halau located at Honaunau bay or near the starting line on Saturday morning before the 7am race start time!

Looking forward to seeing everyone there for a fun day at the bay! Aloha~

Mac-a-Thon 2016 poster

Mac-a-Thon 2016 poster

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10 Rules of the Canoe – One People Canoe Society

 alealea-blessing-39-2860How to Pull with Pride and Purpose


Rule One: Every Stroke We Take Is One Less We Have To Make.

Keep going! Even against the most relentless wind, somehow a canoe moves forward. This mystery can only be explained by the fact that each pull forward is real movement and not delusion.

Rule Two: There Is To Be No Abuse Of Self Or Others.

Respect and Trust cannot exist in anger. It has to be thrown overboard, so the sea can cleanse it. It has to be washed off the hands and cast into the air, so the stars can take care of it. We always look back at the rip tides we pulled through, amazed at how powerful we thought those dangers were.

Rule Three: Be Flexible.

The adaptable animal survives. If you get tired, ship your paddle and rest. If you get hungry, put in on a beach and eat a few oysters. If you can’t figure one way to make it, do something new. When the wind confronts you, sometimes you are supposed to go the other way.

Rule Four: The Gift of Each Enriches All.

Every Story is important. The bow, the stern, the skipper cannot move without the power puller in the middle-everyone is part of the journey. The elder who sits in her cedar at the front, singing her paddle song, prays for us all, the weary paddler resting is still ballast. And there is always that time when the crew needs some joke, some remark, some silence to keep going. The least likely person provides.

Rule Five: We All Pull and Support Each Other.

Nothing occurs in isolation. In a family of the canoe, we are ready for whatever comes. The family can argue, mock, ignore each other, at its worst, but that family will never let itself sink. The canoe that lets itself sink is certainly wiser never to leave the beach. When we know that we are not alone in our actions, we also know we are lifted up by everyone else.

Rule Six: A Hungry Person Has No Charity.

Always nourish yourself. The bitter person, thinking that sacrifice means self-destruction, shares mostly anger. A paddler who doesn’t eat at the feast doesn’t have enough strength to paddle in the morning. Take that sandwich they throw you at 2:00 AM! The gift of Who you are only enters the world when you are strong enough to own it.

Rule Seven: Our Experiences Are Not Enhanced through Criticism.

Who we are, how we are, what we do, why we continue, all flower in understanding. The canoe fellows who are grim go one way. Some men and women may sometimes go slow, but when they arrive they can still sing. And they have gone all over the sea, in the air with the seagulls, under the curve of the wave with the dolphin and down to the whispering shells, under the continental shelf. Withdrawing the blame acknowledges how wonderful a part of it all everyone really is.

Rule Eight: The Journey Is What We Enjoy.

Although the state is exciting and the conclusion gratefully achieved, it is that long, steady process we remember. Being part of the journey requires great preparation. Being done with a journey requires great awareness. Being on the journey, we are much more than ourselves. We are part of the movement of life, we have a destination, and for once, our will is pure, our goal is to on.


Rule Nine: A Good Teacher Always Allows The Student To Learn.

We can berate each other, try to force each other to understand, or we can allow each paddler to gain awareness through the ongoing journey. Nothing sustains us like that sense of potential; that we can deal with things. Each paddler learns to deal with the person in front, the person behind, the water, the air, the energy, the blessing of the eagle.

Rule Ten: When Given a Choice at All, Be a Worker Bee — Make Honey!

Developed as part of a presentation by the Qyuileute People for the Northwest Experiential Education Conference
at University of Puget Sound, [Tacoma, WA] in 1990. This version of The TEN RULES OF THE CANOE by David Forlines is from Oceanedge: The Journal of Applied Storytelling, No. 3, Spring 1995, Tales of the Canoe Nation-1, Page 12, 1995. 

© 2011 The Intertribal Canoe Society and American Friends Service Committee AFSC. All rights reserved.


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Community Meeting – Saturday Dec. 5th


Aloha mai kakou!

Keoua Honaunau Canoe Club is initiating the restoration/rebuilding of the traditional hale in Honaunau that was the home of Hale o Ho’oponopono in the 70s. This precursor of the Hawaiian immersion schools came at a time of cultural revival and activism, e.g., the birth of Hokule‘a, the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana; and addressed the short-comings of the western educational system in its interactions with and attitudes toward the Native Hawaiian community and culture. With the sponsorship of Kamehameha Schools, and the dedication and efforts of Joe Tassill, “Boots” Matthews, Herb Kane, Clarence Medeiros, Abraham Moses, Diana Aki, Tutu Clara Manase and others, Hale o Ho‘oponopono was born.

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 5th, we are hosting a reunion of former students, staff and friends of Hale o Ho‘oponopono along with community groups and individuals involved or interested in participating with us on this 2-year project. We would like to invite everyone to come share their stories, experiences, and mana‘o as we launch this project with a blessing and informational session. It is our intention to revitalize and enhance the cultural landscape of Honaunau Bay, promote the ongoing stewardship of our ahupua‘a, and provide a holding environment for the practice of cultural education for our keiki, residents and visitors.

The afternoon will begin with a blessing, then several speakers will provide an overview of the project, which will entail a series of hale-building workshops, an apprenticeship component, and an ahupua‘a boundary marker initiative that will gather the mo‘olelo, maps, resources, and histories of our area ahupua‘a. The data compiled will then be available on our website and in educational brochures.

There will also be a talk story session, food and kanikapila while we share our ideas and vision for the future of Honaunau. Please join us in honoring those who came before us and laying the groundwork for a vibrant, community-based cultural learning center.

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Keoua Launches Honaunau Cultural Projects

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 11.02.16 AM

After several years of planning and preparation, Keoua Honaunau Canoe Club has received a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) for a two-year project aimed at strengthening the Hawaiian cultural landscape of the Honaunau coastal area. ANA, a federal agency under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services, promotes economic and social self-sufficiency by providing discretionary grant funding for community-based projects implemented by indigenous tribes and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island community organizations.

Upon receiving notice of the award, Senator Mazie Hirono said: “I commend the Keoua Honaunau Canoe Club for its work to strengthen the Hawaiian cultural landscape of the Honaunau area. Creating innovative and culturally appropriate projects such as this one are essential to providing educational opportunities and career pathways for Native Hawaiians.”

During the two-year Honaunau Ola Mau Loa project, a traditional hale halawai at Honaunau Bay, the Hale O Ho’oponopono, will be re-established, involving a hale builder training program for five haumana (interns) that will provide skills towards participants’ eventual certification as Certified Hale Builders, and a series of seven community hale building workshops.

With the generous support of Kamehameha Schools, Hale O Ho‘oponopono was one of the early precursors of the current Hawaiian Immersion schools. In the early 1970s, a number of local kupuna came together and approached Kamehameha Schools with the vision of developing an alternative learning approach that wove Hawaiian cultural studies and activities into an academic curriculum to fill the needs of the many local children who were struggling with the educational system at Konawaena High School. Many were dropouts, homeless, and/or in trouble with authority so Hale O Ho’oponopono became a home where they could air their grievances and resolve their conflicts under the watchful eyes and guidance of kupuna Uncle Abraham & Lily Moses, Tutu Clara Manase, Joe Tassil, Diana Aki, “Boot” Matthews, Dixon Enos, Clarence Medeiros and others.

The students went paddling, fishing and ‘opihi picking, while learning ‘olelo, hula, mele, and hale building, in addition to the standard curriculum required for graduation. They also did volunteer work at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau NHP, learning the history and traditions of this important wahi pana. As a means of getting the South Kona community involved, students, staff and area residents also founded Keoua Honaunau Canoe Club in 1975. All these initiatives gave them the confidence and support they needed to excel at their academic studies, as well as becoming productive members of our Kona community.

The re-established hale halawai, when completed, will create a strong holding environment for the ongoing study and practice of Hawaiian culture, visitor education, protection of our precious lands and water, and the development of culture-based local economies.


The project also involves the implementation of an ahupua’a boundary marker system for the four ahupua‘a between Honaunau and Napo‘opo‘o, modeled after a similar project in Kaneohe on O‘ahu that was carried out by the Ko’olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club.

The establishment of a Hawai‘i-wide system of marking these traditional ahupua‘a boundaries is widely seen as a very significant step towards educating the public about the ahupua‘a system and how the ancient principles of ahupua‘a management can inform sustainability initiatives today. Through the presence of the highly visible boundary markers and informational brochures and website, the community and visitors will be more aware of and connected to the cultural and natural resources of these ahupua‘a, have access to the history, stories and traditions of each ahupua‘a, and will be more likely to get involved with or be supportive of community stewardship activities that protect these resources.

Rafael Ramirez, Keoua Honaunau Canoe Club president, says, “This project will help ensure that future generations understand the history and cultural significance of our wahi pana, re-creating a traditional environment for educational and stewardship activities.” The project will be implemented with the assistance of ten other community organizations and agencies that will serve as project partners.

For more information about the project, email to





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Hale O Keawe

1886 watercolor by Robert C. Barnfield

1886 watercolor by Robert C. Barnfield

Overlooking Honaunau Bay is the iconic traditional structure Hale O Keawe, now part of Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park. Genealogies and mo‘olelo indicate that Hale o Keawe was likely built either by or for Keawe-i-kekahi-ali‘i-o-ka-moku around A.D. 1700.

At that time, it served as a royal mausoleum, housing the remains of deified high chiefs, whose powerful mana, which lived on with the remains, served to sanctify the Pu‘uhonua.

In 1829 Queen Ka‘ahumanu ordered the removal of the remaining bones and the complete deconstruction of the temple. The platform itself survived until high surf, including at least two tsunamis in 1868 and 1877, caused extensive damage.

Restored in 1966–1967, with additional restoration work done most recently in 2004, the Hale O Keawe and the carved wooden ki‘i that surround it stand as testament to the cultural and spiritual significance of the site. As we paddle our canoes past Hale O Keawe, the juxtaposition of this prominent image of ancient Hawai‘i, and our daily, modern practice of the culture of the wa’a, serves to inspire and encourage our efforts to honor and perpetuate the cultural legacy of Honaunau.

To help tell the story of Hale O Keawe, we looked to the writings of John Papa ʻĪʻI, a 19th century educator, politician and historian and subject of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He became an attendant of Kamehameha I and  a companion and personal attendant to Liholiho, who later became King Kamehameha II. He also served as the general superintendent of Oahu schools, a member of the Treasury Board and the Board of Land Commissioners, and Speaker of the House of Nobles. His series of 1866–1870 articles in the Hawaiian Language Newspaper Ka Nupepa Ku‘ooko‘a were translated and re-published in 1959 and have provided invaluable insights into Hawaiian culture during a period of great significance in the Hawaiian Kingdom.

In his words, “The Hale O Keawe in Honaunau was called Ka-iki-ʻAlealea (The little ʻAlealea,) and was a puʻuhonua. Kaikiholu and Pakaʻalana on Hawaii, Kakaʻe in ʻIao, Maui; Kūkaniloko in Wahiawa, Oʻahu; and Holoholoku in Wailua, Kauaʻi, were also places to which one who had killed could run swiftly and be saved.”

“The person whose writing this is often went about them, including the Hale O Keawe. He has seen this house (hale ʻaumakua iwi) where the bones were deposited, standing majestically on the left (or south) side of Akahipapa.”

“The house stood by the entrance of a wooden enclosure, with door facing inland towards the farming lands of South Kona.”

“The heir to the kingdom entered the Hale O Keawe during his journey around to the various luakini heiau of Kanoa in Hilo, Wahaʻula in Puna, and Punaluʻu in Kaʻū. The journey began in Kailua, thence to Kawaihae and from there on around the island to the Hale O Keawe.“

“The appearance of the house was good. Its posts and rafters were of kauila wood, and it was said that this kind of timber was found in the upland of Napu’u. It was well built, with crossed stems of dried ti leaves, for that was the kind of thatching used.”

“The appearance inside and outside of the house was good to look at. The compact bundles of bones (pukuʻi iwi) that were deified (hoʻokuaʻia) were in a row there in the house, beginning with Keawe’s near the right side of the door by which one went in and out, and going to the spot opposite the door (kuʻono).”

“At the right front corner of the house where the unwrapped bones of those who had died in war, heaped up like firewood. In that pile of bones were the bones of Nahiolea, father of M Kekūanāoʻa. The person whose writing this is saw his own father remove his tapa shoulder covering and place it on a bundle among the other bundles of bones. He must have asked the caretaker about all of them and their names, and they were told to him. That was why he did so.”

“When the writer saw his father doing this he asked, ‘Have we a near kinsman in this house?’ His father assented. There are some people who have relatives in this house of ‘life’, but perhaps most of them are dead. The chiefs were descended from Hāloa and so were their retainers (kauwa kupono). The chiefs were born, such as Lono-i-ka-makahiki and Kama-lala-walu and so on down, and so were the retainers (i.e., the junior members of the family.)”

“After the chief ʻIolani (Liholiho) had finished his visit to the house, a pig was cooked and the gathering sat to worship (hoʻomana) the deified persons there. When that was done, the chief and those who went in with him ate together. After the eating was over, the kapu was removed. The travellers left the Hale O Keawe and sailed by canoe, landing at Kamakahonu in Kailua in the evening. There they met Kamehameha. That must have been in the year 1817.”

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Kawaihae LD Race

Congratulations to all our paddlers for an outstanding performance on Saturday’s long distance race @ Kawaihae. Our Open Koa Women’s crew paddled “Ka’ahumanu” to a First Place in their division and 8th. overall in a field of 30 canoes. Our Open Koa Men followed with a respectable Fourth Place finish in their division; while our Mixed 40s crew paddled our Bradley, “Pae’a”, to a First Place in their division. For all the results go to:

You can also see photos at:

Mahalo Akua for such a beautiful day in the water and to all our paddlers and supporters for all the little things that make it all come together. We now begin the regatta season with the Papa Kimitete Regatta in Kailua on May 16, so train hard and have fun!

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34th Annual Mac-A-Thon Results

Aloha and Happy Easter to all:
You can access the results of yesterday’s race at:
Mahalo to all our sponsors, supporters, volunteers and most of all, the runners, for making this the biggest Mac-A-Thon ever! There are also photos posted at:


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2015 Welcome

Aloha mai kakou!

We extend a heartfelt welcome to all our paddlers, young and old, novice and experienced, as we begin our 2015 season. Our first week of practice began with many familiar and new faces coming together to pule and acknowledge our kupuna, those who came before us and made it imperative for us to malama such a culturally significant and spiritual place. Mahalo Akua for the blessings of ‘ohana, for our health, for the beauty and abundance of our ‘aina, and for the aloha that we share paddling our sacred waters.

Please visit the Join Keoua and About Keoua pages of our website for registration & waiver forms, our 2015 Paddlers’ Handbook, canoe etiquette, history, 2015 race schedule and more!

While training and conditioning for a rigorous competitive schedule –close to 20 races between May and October – we have several other events and activities on our calendar.

First of these is our 34th Annual Mac-A-Thon 5K & 10K Race on Saturday, April 4th in Honaunau. This is one of our major fundraisers and requires the participation of all our members and supporters in soliciting donations for our silent auction, clean-up of the race course between Honaunau & Napo‘opo‘o, preparing individual race packets, race registration & timing, set-up and decoration of our stage area, preparing/serving our delicious pancake breakfast to all entrants, and handing out awards.

At some point before the Mac-A-Thon, we will have a brief, informal blessing of our club’s first canoe, Keoua, which, after more than 40 years of faithful service, was completely restored by our kalaiwa‘a, Kurtis Yamauchi. Our canoes are integral members of our ‘ohana and it is befitting that we honor and care for our distinguished elders.

Keoua, a Malia-class fiberglass canoe, was one of 10 canoes purchased by the County of Hawai‘i in the early ‘70s, and distributed among the various Moku o Hawai‘i clubs. Before 1980, all regattas except the State Races were in fiberglass canoes, so Keoua entered and won many races until 1980, after which all regattas required the use of a koa canoe, and she was from that time used as a practice canoe. So come down to our halau and take a look at a living piece of our club history. Better yet, breathe in the mana she radiates when we take her back out into our waters!

As with all sports, the overall level of paddlers’ fitness and conditioning has improved dramatically over the years. There have also been many changes in paddling styles, race categories & classifications, and canoe design. This year, Keoua will welcome into our fold a new “unlimited class” Makika canoe, currently being built by Tiger Canoes. It will weigh well under 200 lbs. and usher in a new era of competition, so get in shape and work hard for the opportunity to paddle in this canoe. As with all new canoes, there will be a christening and blessing to celebrate its birth.

Fast-forwarding to August 22nd, we will be hosting the 29th Annual Calvin Kelekolio Long Distance Race. Honoring one of our first coaches, this event brings together paddlers from our island as well as guest paddlers from the neighbor islands, U.S. continent and Aotearoa. Complemented with music and our legendary pa‘ina, it is one of the high points on everyone’s race calendar.

We are also raising funds for entering the Pailolo Challenge, 25 miles across the channel between Maui and Moloka‘i, held in mid-September. This event requires much advance planning and expenditure for hotel accommodations, travel arrangements, escort boat and entry fees, so now is the time for interested paddlers to commit and begin working towards this goal.

In addition to this exciting schedule, we have the day-to-day maintenance of our equipment and halau grounds, the collection and sorting of HI-5 recyclables which fund our children’s program, and a pending request to ANA for funds to restore and rebuild the Hale o Ho‘oponopono in our canoe lot near the boat ramp. All of these are an integral part of our stewardship of Honaunau Bay and perpetuation of our cultural legacy, so we welcome and urge you to take an active role in any way you can.

Mahalo for being a part of our Keoua ‘Ohana.

Rafael Ramirez, President and Head Coach

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