Keauhou Canoe Club shares their paddling experience with students

“Front to back: WHEA students Morgan Sessions and Jahnea Jacobson help KCC paddlers Bill Armer, Gary Leveque and Lawrence Goff park a canoe on the beach.” (Courtesy of Keauhou Canoe Club)

(BIVN) – West Hawaiʻi Explorations Academy students participate in Keauhou Canoe Club’s Na Mea Kupaianaha, or “discovery of wonderful or amazing things,” a monthly program that shares Hawaiian culture, fitness, and fun through the sport of outrigger canoe paddle.

“The intent of the program is to bridge the generational gap by increasing student and adult knowledge, awareness and appreciation for the cultural richness of paddling and the heritage offered by the Keauhou Bay setting,” said said KCC Membership Secretary Bill Armer. “The question is ‘which generation teaches and learns the most with the other generation?'”

The program, which began in September and continues through February, is detailed in a recent Keauhou Canoe Club press release:

Each monthly session begins with the recitation of a Hawaiian oli (chant) and a cultural presentation led by Noelani Campbell, KCC’s cultural liaison. During this time, the keiki learn the cultural significance of paddling and key Hawaiian words used in the state’s official team sport. Students also visit Keauhou’s historic sites, such as the birthplace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) and the Kuamo’o battlefield with its Lekeleke cemeteries. Additionally, students will construct a mo’okauhau (family tree) from a visual mathematical perspective.

Paddling activities are guided by 20 KCC volunteers serving as paddlers and helmsmen to assist 40 WHEA eighth graders and teaching staff. WHEA 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. Fun 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.

WHEA covered the $25 registration fee for each student and the $125 cost for staff members to join KCC’s Na Mea Kupaianaha and also gives them full club membership for the duration of the program. WHEA provides transportation for students to the canoe halau and KCC provides the use of paddles, life jackets and canoes. Participating KCC members who provide advice are between the ages of 40 and 80, and many have experience as educators and coaches. Keiki prepares to get wet, brings his own towels and lunch to enjoy afterwards.

“I like paddling; it’s fun and definitely a workout,” shares WHEA student Sola Laliberte, while classmate Leo Lenta adds, “it’s good that everyone is working together, syncing up and stuff. Commenting on the whole experience, student Kira Matsuoka thinks, “It lets you connect with yourself, the ocean, this place, and Hawaiian culture.”

KCC’s Na Mea Kupaianaha started on demand. Sam Anderson-Moxley of WHEA’s Bridge Year program, a transition-to-high school initiative offering real-world challenges to inspire and empower eighth-graders, reached out to club culture committee and board member Jessie Chambers, on the possibility of a partnership with KCC.

“The Bridge Year is about getting students to learn in the real world, experience and engage with their ‘aina, and participate in outdoor adventures that challenge them to learn and grow. in a way they never could while sitting in a classroom,” says Anderson-Moxley. “Padling with KCC gives students the opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience where they learn the history, culture, language, sport and math while practicing teamwork, collaboration and timing.”

Anderson-Moxley points out that the KCC-WHEA partnership allows students to learn and engage with community mentors, not just their teachers, “which is invaluable.”

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

“Our WHEA partnership allows us to broaden the base of our ongoing youth outreach through the expansion of our cultural, educational and athletic activities,” Chambers notes. “Na Mea Kupaianaha enriches the student experience and ultimately strengthens KCC’s commitment to our youth through the perpetuation of the culture-based outrigger paddle.”

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