Mahalo to all the race crews, volunteers and OHCRA officials who made this race a fantastic day on the water for all participants.
History of the Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Race
The first Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Canoe race was held on August 24, 1968 in honor of the late Duke Kahanamoku. The race was the brainchild of Doug Carr and George Lipp, then head coach and president respectively of Lanikai Canoe Club. The winner of the race that first year was Outrigger Canoe Club with a time of 3:44:08. The course extended from Kailua beach park to the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki, a distance of approximately 24 miles. The following year, 1969, the race became an annual event and official permission was given for the use of Duke Kahanamoku as its official name. Waikiki Surf Club won the race that year and of note was the fact that one woman paddler was allowed to participate in the race with the stipulation that she be in the canoe as it crossed the finish line.
In 1972 the race course was changed such that the finish occurred at the Hilton Hawaiian Village which correspondingly increased the distance to 26 miles. Once again Waikiki Surf Club won the race with a finish time of 3:44. In 1975 the finish line was moved to Sans Souci beach and the race course was shortened to 22 miles. In 1976 separate divisions for koa and fiberglass canoes were established. That year Outrigger won in the koa division in 2:59 and Kailua Canoe Club won in the fiberglass division.
1979 brought some major changes in the race. A women’s race was instituted and the men’s race course ran from Magic Island to Kailua beach park. Following the men’s race the women’s race took place in Kailua Bay much as it does today. Outrigger won the koa division that year in 3:19:09 and Hui Nalu won the fiberglass division 3:10:21. Similarly Outrigger Canoe Club won the women’s koa division in 47:6 and Hui Nalu won the fiberglass division with a time of 47:23. Outrigger women’s koa finish time remains as the record today.
In 1970 there were thirteen canoes to register for the race; only 9 finished the course. By 1982 there were 34 canoes to enter the men’s race. That year (1982) Outrigger Canoe Club won both the koa division and the fiberglass division. Hui Nalu won the women’s koa division and Outrigger women won the fiberglass division. In 1983, the Hawaiian Race “rocket” canoe entered the race and in 1985 was used in setting the new course record for men. The 1985 overall winner was Outrigger Canoe Club with a time of 2:51:30. Outrigger women won using a “rocket” that year with a finish time of 44:52:90.
In 1990 Dave Lerps assumed running of the Duke race. Because this was the Duke Kahanamoku centennial and festivities were to be held at the dedication of the new Duke statue in Waikiki, the men’s race course was once again reversed. That year it ran from Kailua Beach park to Ft. DeRussy, a distance of approximately 25 miles. 28 men’s crews entered that year. Outrigger won the fiberglass division with a time of 2:58:26. Hui Nalu won the koa division with a time of 3:06:04. That year the women’s course ran from Ft. DeRussy to the Diamond Head buoy and back a distance of approximately 6 miles. Healani women won the fiberglass division that year with a finish time of 49:35:13 and the koa division with a time of 51:20:61.
In 1991 the men’s course was once again reversed and ran from Magic Island to Kailua Beach. The overall winner was Outrigger Canoe club using a koa canoe. The winning time was 3:40:40. Lanikai Canoe Club won the fiberglass division that year with a time of 3:44:23. A senior master division (45 and up) was added that year and was won by Anuenue in 5:04:18. 1992 saw the men’s race course change again to run from Kailua Beach park to Ft. DeRussy Lanikai Canoe Club won both the fiberglass division and the koa division with times of 3:06:45 and 3:25:12 respectively. The women’s course ran from Ft. DeRussy to Honolulu harbor and back, a distance of 6.5 miles. Lokahi women won both the fiberglass and the koa division with times of 1:01:42 and 1:06:34 respectively.
In 1995 the race course and order were changed. The women raced first in Kailua Bay. The men’s race started with a floating start off Kailua beach and ran to Hilton Hawaiian Village. That year there were 35 entries in the men’s race and a new course record was set by Lanikai Canoe Club with a time of 2:49:21. Waikiki Surf Club won the koa division with a time of 3:08:36. Outrigger master 35+ won with a time of 3:11:13 and Kailua masters 45+ won with a time of 3:20:55.
1996 saw the addition of a masters 51+ division to the race. That year the weather conditions were quite rough. 39 women’s crews entered the race. 5 crews were unable to complete the race. There were no koa entries that year. Conditions did not improve for the men’s race and it was additionally flawed by a false start and actually began at Wailea Point. Thirty-nine crews entered that year; five did not finish and several boats had to be towed to shore. Lanikai Canoe Club won with a time of 2:42:45. Master 35+ was won by Lokahi in 3:05:16 and masters 45+ was won again by Kailua in 3:18:10. The new masters 51+ division was won by Anuenue in 3:24:19. This was the last year Dave Lerps and Will Rich chaired the race.
1997 and 1998 saw few changes in the race. There continued to be no koa entries. 31 women’s crews entered and 47 men’s crews entered. In 1997 the Hui Nalu women were the overall winners with a time of 44:08:70. Lanikai men won with a time of 2:41:17, breaking their own 1995 record. In 1998 Lanikai Canoe Club entered 3 iron man crews. That year Outrigger Canoe Club won the open, non-koa division with a time of 3:04:04 and the 40+ division in 3:27:11. Masters 52+ was won by Kailua again in 3:27:23.
Weather interfered with the race again in 1999 causing the women’s race course to be altered. Rough surf dictated that the course be kept inside the reef and be shortened. Hui Nalu women came in first with a time 47:59:38. Last year for the first time the men had a seeded start to the race. The top 15 finishers of the 1998 race began the race 15 minutes after the rest of the crews. Outrigger was the overall winner with a time of 3:06:56 Hui Lanakila won in the masters35+ in 3:20:15 and Koa Kai won the masters 45+ in 3:39:58. Two off island crews participated last year: Kai Opua from the Big Island and NAC Outrigger from California.
In 2000, the 33rd Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Canoe Race which was rescheduled from Aug. 20th (adverse winds and seas) was cancelled by OHCRA on Saturday, Sept. 9th, much to the dismay of the paddlers and Lanikai Canoe Club officials. However, within minutes of the cancellation an impromptu coaches meeting on the beach resulted in a new plan for a renegade/unofficial race which had 13 canoes starting off Flat Island at Kailua Beach and finishing approximately 25 miles later at Magic Island. Lanikai won the unofficial event with Outrigger Canoe Club Masters finishing 2nd.
Weather and ocean conditions again factored into the Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Race in 2001. With challenging conditions, a record 48 crews entered the Men’s Race. Lanikai won the Men’s Race completing the 24-mile course from Kailua Beach to the pier fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki, in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 28 seconds. Since the course was changed to its current format in 1995, Lanikai has won four of the six official “Duke” races in the Men’s Division. The Women’s 7-mile course was won by Outrigger in a time of 53 minutes, 6.51 seconds. A change in race rules now allows for off-island Men’s entries to be optionally seeded into the “faster” group split start which was 10 minutes after the rest of the crews.
The 35th annual Duke Kahanamoku Race was celebrated in August 2002. Favorable weather conditions greeted the participating crews. The Women’s race was won by Kailua I in 52:42. Masters 35+ winner was Lanikai II, Marster 45+ winner was Kailua V, and Anuenue I won the Masters 55+. New Hope Canoe Club participated for the first time. Forty four (44) crews started the mens race, and 41 crews finished. Outrigger placed first in three divisions – Open Non Koa; Masters 35+ and Masters 45+. Anuenue won the Masters 55+. We had four (4) off island crews, Puna, Kai Opua, Kukui o Molokai and, for the first time ever, a team from the Cook Islands, Te Tupu o te Manava.
Small craft advisories greeted the 36th annual Duke Race. The race officials gave the women their choice of courses, and of course the women opted for the figure eight course out to Mokolea Rock and back. Kailua I was the overall winner of the women’s race. The winds and seas made the men’s race exciting. Forty two (42) crews registered, but five (5) crews withdrew prior to the start. Healani (aka Hawaii/New Zealand) was the overall winner of the men’s race. Both the women’s and men’s races featured several close finishes making the event especially exciting. Sadly for the seventh year in a row, there were no koa entries.