Keauhou Canoe Club inspires students with Hawaiian culture and the fun of paddling: Big Island Now

A program born out of a partnership between the Keauhou Canoe Club and West Hawai’i Explorations Academy challenges the school’s eighth graders to learn and grow in ways they never could sit in a classroom.

Na Mea Kupaianaha, which means “finding wonderful or amazing things,” is a monthly program offered by the canoe club that shares fitness, fun, and Hawaiian culture through the sport of canoe paddling with students. The intent of the program is to bridge the generation gap by increasing the knowledge, awareness and appreciation of participating students and their adult mentors of the rich cultural paddling and heritage offered as part of Keauhou Bay, according to Keauhou Canoe Club Membership Secretary Bill Armer. .

Keauhou Canoe Club drummer Richard Shouse demonstrates paddling techniques for Izaya Edmonds, Tobias Davis, Rowan Paoli and Sam Anderson-Moxley while coxswain BC Celello watches stroke timing. Photos courtesy of Keauhou Canoe Club.

“The question is, which generation teaches and learns the most with the other generation? Armer, the program organizer, said in a press release.

Each monthly session held at the club’s Keauhou canoe hālau begins with the recitation of a Hawaiian oli and a cultural presentation led by Noelani Campbell, the Keauhou Canoe Club’s cultural liaison. Keiki learns the cultural significance of paddling and key Hawaiian words used in the state’s official team sport.

Students also visit historic sites in Keauhou, such as the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and the Kuamo’o battlefield with its Lekeleke cemeteries. Additionally, eighth graders will construct a mo’okauhau, or family tree, from a visual mathematical perspective.


Paddling activities are guided by 20 club volunteers serving as swimmers and helmsmen to assist 40 students and teaching staff. Program participants learn a variety of skills – paddling, posture and stroke techniques, timing, canoe etiquette and boating safety. Six or 12 person canoes are used for paddling and students help launch and bring the canoes back to the beach. The fun also includes competitive sprints in Keauhou Bay.

Once the last canoe is securely stowed, the 2.5 hour sessions conclude with participants gathered around a canoe for a moment of silence and a short cheer in the Hawaiian language.

The program started in September and continues until February.

“I like paddling; it’s fun and definitely a workout,” West Hawai’i Explorations Academy eighth-grade student Sola Laliberte said in the press release. Sola’s classmate Leo Lenta added, “It’s good that everyone is working together and syncing and everything.”


Student Kira Matsuoka said the program “allows you to connect with yourself, the ocean, this place, and Hawaiian culture.”

Sam Anderson-Moxley of West Hawai’i Explorations Academy’s Bridge Year program — a transition-to-high school initiative offering real-life challenges to inspire and empower the school’s eighth-graders — reached out to the cultural committee and member of the Keauhou Canoe Club Board of Directors Jessie Chambers about the possibility of forming a partnership. Na Mea Kupaianaha is the result of this request.

West Hawai’i Explorations Academy students and Keauhou Canoe Club participants come together to end a paddling session with a moment of silence with all hands on the canoe.

“The Bridge Year is about getting students to learn in the real world, experience and engage with their ‘aina, and participate in outdoor adventures,” Anderson-Moxley said in the press release, adding that the aim is to get students learning in a setting far from behind a desk. “Padling with [Keauhou Canoe Club] gives students the opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience where they learn about history, culture, language, sports, and math while practicing teamwork, collaboration, and timing.

Anderson-Moxley pointed out that the partnership between the canoe club and the school allows eighth graders to learn and engage with community mentors, not just their teachers, which is invaluable.


The West Hawai’i Explorations Academy covers the costs of student and staff participation in the program and also provides them with full club membership for the duration. The school also provides transportation for students to the hālau by canoe. Keauhou Canoe Club offers the use of paddles, life jackets and canoes. Many of the participating canoe club members, aged 40 to 80, have teaching and coaching experience.

Keiki prepares to get wet, brings his own towels and lunch to enjoy afterwards.

Chambers, who envisions Na Mea Kupaianaha as a recurring educational offering for school groups, hopes the program will inspire keiki to participate in the canoe club’s youth program, which includes participation in the Moku O Hawai’i summer regatta season.

“Our [West Hawai‘i Explorations Academy] This partnership allows us to broaden the base of our continued action with young people through the expansion of our cultural, educational and sporting activities,” Chambers said in the press release. “Na Mea Kupaianaha enriches the student experience and ultimately strengthens [Keauhou Canoe Club’s] commitment to our youth through the perpetuation of culture-based outrigger paddling.

Founded in 1980, the mission of the Keauhou Canoe Club is to educate youth, its members and the community at large about Hawaiian culture, values ​​and traditions. The club offers paddling opportunities for people of all ages. For more information, visit the club’s website.


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