Molokai Hoe Cross - From Kawakiu Bay to Waikiki

Three six-man crews from Kona's Kai 'Opua Canoe Club paddled for six hours.

Kai 'Opua speeds through Kai'wi Channel in the 2010 Molokai Hoe.

I'm proud to tell you that Hawaii Life helped to sponsor one of the Kai 'Opua canoes. My friend Chad Alcos described an uplifting, and exciting time challenging the elements for this traditional Molokai event.

The Kai'wi Channel is 38 miles of open ocean between Molokai and Oahu. It's best described as treacherous. Normally, Kai'pua practices out of Kamakahonu Bay, by Kailua Pier. To prepare for the October 10 race, the club spent countless hours training at Keokea Park in N. Kohala. This exposed the crew and support team to the elements so they'd know what it was like to be uncomfortable.

“The channel is very rough—an ocean of its own—it has a unique weather system that changes all the time. The women crossing two weeks before the race had really mild conditions: slight winds, maybe 10 to 15 mph at their backs, and not much in the way of swells. Two weeks later, when the men crossed, the channel was really tough. Swells were six to eight feet—some higher—with 20 to 25 mph winds. The current was pulling out, and the tide was dropping as we entered Honolulu. It made it tougher to navigate.

Given the difficulty, Chad surprised me by saying the physical side is not as critical as the mental. "When you get tired you can still want to keep going. But if your mind starts checking out, your body starts checking out. I talk to them and make sure their minds are on the race—and off body parts that might be hurting. I want to focus their energy inside the canoe.

As the stroker, I set the pace for the crew. I have to feel the canoe. It's kind of like riding a tandem bike. If one person is peddling faster, you won't be moving efficiently. You need to maintain a stroke that everyone else can match."

I was surprised that Chad sees the big swells as helpful. "You can pick up speed by surfing and navigating the swells—they don't break like on shore, so you don't paddle hard on the back side. The crew actually gets a quick rest. Once you're in the channel, you just enjoy yourself. It's not like a job!"

This was Chad's third crossing. "I take it to heart. My mom's father comes from Molokai. When I go, I visit family and get their blessings for me to cross. It feels like carrying my family over with me. I'll keep going as long as my body allows me to."

  • The Molokai Hoe is one of the longest running annual team sporting events in Hawaii, second only to football.
  • This year marks the 58th crossing.
  • It continues one of Hawaii's and Polynesia's most important, and historic cultural traditions.

If the wilder northwest coast of the Big Island calls you to make it your home, there is still land to build. I'm happy to help if it's time for you to bring your Hawaii home ideas to fruition.