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Championing cultural traditions

Students represent their home countries while padding canoes across Kahana Bay

Students, faculty and staff racing in canoes at Kahana Bay.
Students, faculty and staff race in canoes at Kahana Bay.

After a several heats, a semifinal and a final race, the team “Ainokea” from Tahiti claimed victory at the open water canoe race in Kahana Bay on July 28. “Camakau,” a canoe team from Fiji came in second, and “The Office Squad” consisting of the President’s Council, BYUH President John S. K. Kauwe, Academic Vice President Walker and their children, came in third.

This was the first canoe race in open waters for BYU–Hawaii held by Seasider Activities.

Kealoha Teriitahi from Tahiti, and the leader of team Ainokea, said, “For every canoe race, there always must be Tahitians because this is in our blood and our culture.”

Students, faculty and staff joined together to create culturally diverse canoe teams consisting of Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Americans. In support for their teams, Seasiders manifested their cultural and group pride through waving national flags and cheering.

President Kauwe and Vice President walker posing with their children on the shore.
President Kauwe and Vice President Walker with their children.

Expressing cultural pride

Elaine Wong, a senior TESOL major from Hong Kong, said her team members from the Hong Kong Club were worried about competing because none of them were experienced in paddling. However, she shared, they focused on synchronizing their pushing off the beach and paddling through the water allowing them to proceed to the second round.

Pristine Shek, a sophomore art major from Hong Kong, said she was encouraged to join by her friends. She said her team felt like a family, and she enjoyed their team spirit. She said she had never paddled before but was willing to give it a try.

By attending the event, Shek said she hoped to learn more about the Hawaiian culture and to share that knowledge with her family when she returns to Hong Kong. She said studying at BYUH is a privilege, and she wants to contribute to the culture on campus and build a better future.

Max Selvan, a freshman business management major from Malaysia, said he had an impression to support and represent his home country of Malaysia. Although he hasn’t paddled before, he said he felt like giving it a try and having fun.

Selvan, a member of the team named “Walao,” said although it was a competitive environment, he was in it to have fun and represent his home country.

Io Chang, a freshman business management major from China, said his team wasn’t experienced in paddling. Despite that, he said they worked together, followed their instructions and gave it their all. “It doesn’t matter if you win or not. It’s good to build a connection with friends.”

Chang’s team, the Hong Kong Squad, competed and won the first-round relay against the “Wave Breakers” and “Sky Bison.”

The energetic race

According to the Coordinator of Student Activity Jacquie Alisa, 18 clubs of 108 students participated in the event. Uncle Sage, the leader of Lahui o Ko’olauloa, provided the paddlers with the outriggers, canoes, paddles, safety vests and assistance.

The Coordinator of Seasiders Sports & Activities Irwin Ah-Hoy explained the trajectory that spanned from 100 to 250 yards. The race was a timed event, and the shortest time determined the winners. A fast-beat tempo of drumming, led by Tom Mariteragi, accompanied the commotion of the event.

Chang said he hopes the school continues to host more canoe races in the future.

At the conclusion of the event, President John S.K. Kauwe said he supports the event being held annually.