Na Wahine O Ke Kai - Hale O Lono Debacle

Congrats to all the ladies in yesterday's race. Awesome job!

Now, onto safety, a couple of questions and observations:

  1. Was wondering if anyone is going to be held accountable on how the exit from Hale O Lono was managed before the start of the race?
  2. Should OHCRA have established a protocol on the exit? (was this even discussed?)

If there was protocol, how was it enforced?

  1. It seems like the last crews to get out of the harbor were rushed and thus put themselves in grave danger. Why wasn't the race delayed further?
  2. Even two canoes leaving the entrance together to scrape past the breakers is reckless. How could this happen? This is not Macfarlane regatta people, I dont want to poo poo the race volunteers who are the backbone of our association, but there needs to be knowledgeable watermen/women who are in charge when the ocean conditions become severe. Its as if the last crews out did not appreciate the danger or know any better. Crazy. Just crazy.
  3. OHCRA is very lucky no one was seriously injured. Glad we are not playing Monday morning quarterback about someone getting seriously injured.

Let the discussion begin!

Submitted by numerouno on Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:43pm

20/20 hindsight, it's all clear in the retrospectroscope, etc etc.

As far as who should be held responsible...I think first and foremost it's each crew's responsibility. A few crews didn't feel like it would be safe to go out, and so they didn't. Each crew has to make their own go/no-go decision. That said, it doesn't mean more couldn't have been done to help. The biggest problem I think is that canoes were heading out in clusters, and heading right into the middle of where the waves were breaking. I think the simplest thing to do once the clusterf*ck started would have been to delay the race by a half an hour, and have an official boat on the inside and one on the outside letting everyone know. The one on the inside should then tell everyone to head out one at a time (delaying the race would have enabled this), and advising people not to go up the middle. I don't think an organization can force everyone what to do or tell them exactly where to go when because then they're taking responsibility, and it needs to be the crew's responsibility, but they can still help.

More proactively, if they had thought of it earlier, would have been to tell everyone that before the race. Perhaps even made it easier for crews to bag if they wanted by providing shipping for canoes or trying to work with the airlines to get people home from Molokai (not sure if that's feasible) if they chose to bag. Some folks are suggesting they should have cancelled the race. Should they have called off the race? That's a tough call. The ocean wasn't burly once they got outside. The crews that were experienced being around those kinds of waves were probably relatively safe (or less unsafe anyway), while those that weren't were more of a crapshoot. Ideally it should be each crew's decision, but of course when pride takes over most crews aren't going to bag even if they know they should. Should the race organization be responsible for protecting people from themselves? Either way, not going out in clusters and not going up the middle would have made things a lot less dangerous, and delaying the race would have allowed them to trickle out.

Either way it's gotta be a liability nightmare. If you admit it's unsafe then you can get sued because you knew it was unsafe and did it anyway. If you don't do anything you can get sued because you didn't do anything. If you tell people what to do and they don't execute properly or get hurt anyway, you can get sued. If you cancel the race, then you have 760 pissed off paddlers who worked their butts off all season to train and spent a lot of money and don't get to race. I don't think they should have called off the race, and I don't think they should get sued, but I do think they really should have helped like I said above instead of just sitting back and watching the carnage (I'm sure they weren't just sitting back watching, but whatever they might have been doing had the same effect).

#1 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:43pm

MalikoJunkie, I agree with you. However, I'm sure a lot of the crews simply did not know any better and failed to appreciate the danger of getting out. That's where there needs to be someone with absolute control making the calls.

#2 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:03pm

I believe its every crews responsibility to make the call whether to go or no go, especially the steersman/coach who is in charge of the crew. This is a sport where there is a possibility of getting seriously injured and i think people lose sight of the fact that you have no control of mother nature and what she will throw at you. Note i was not at Hale o Lono and was not in the situation but if i was in a crew in the harbor and saw some crews make it out safely that would definitely give me some influence on whether or not to head out. again i believe in any race day situation where conditions are questionable people need to take responsibility for their own actions, if they do not feel comfortable doing it then they probably shouldnt be doing it.

#3 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:02pm

never mind being hurt. thank goodness no one died. a 400# canoe with 1000# of woman in it going 20 mph in whitewash = a farking shitload of momentum. that wouldn't hurt someone, it'd kill someone. *god was watching out. who knows what would've happened without her help.

*god in this case means whatever higher source of power you believe in to explain the things you can't understand.

#4 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:24pm

Personally, I think it falls on the Coach. Nobody has a better idea on the experience of any given crew. I could already see the lawsuits if a "waterman" were to make the decision to when a crew were to head out.
It's mother nature and with that comes certain risks. Each paddler should understand those risks and not look to lay blame on others. Why look for blame when typically the blame starts with the individual.
Of course, only my opinion. Let's look at the positive, great job by the crews for handling the situation.Very impressive.

#5 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:52pm

You all have good insight and mana'o. What needs to be done is everyone should start paying attention to the 'ole moon. Our ancestors already figured it out. Ask your Kupuna or Kumu what 'ole moon is. They'll tell you. I bet fishing was junk leading up to sunday too. We all need to pay attention. Aloha.

#6 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:01pm

No 20/20 hindsight needed to see that the way out of the harbor was rough. Definitely there should have been a delay to the start so boats could time it better. There was a much calmer patch after most of the canoes had gone through and right before race start that the escort boats were able to take advantage of. Many boats turned back and exited to the right of the harbor. I feel like the organizers should have suggested and recommended this safer option.

#7 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:25pm

There has been a very interesting discussion on the topic on Mrs Terry Galpin's Facebook. I think it's important to continue the conversation on here as it's a subject that could have major ramifications on the future of paddling.

Here are a couple of relevant posts that I made on the subject there. Since I'm still worn out just from watching the Na Wahine yesterday, I'll repost my comments from FB in their entirety here:

Post #1 (as my answer to the general question of should the race have been cancelled)
"I am concerned that there weren't any safety officials in sight at the channel entrance. Maybe there were and I didn't see? But it seemed like a bit of a free-for-all to get out. It is lucky that nobody got seriously injured. It was an exciting morning for all involved, but it could have easily been a tragic one. I definitely don't think the race should've been cancelled, but more organization to get the women safely through could've been prudent. But again, maybe there were safety boats out there that I didn't see?"

Post #2 (as my answer to the consensus that paddlers who can cross the channel should be able to get through surf.)
"Punching through 10 foot sets has nothing to do with your ability to cross the channel. The Hoe and the Na Wahine are the races they are because we encourage everyone to come. How is a crew from Russia, New Mexico, Montana, or the east coast ever going to have any experience punching through sets or timing the surf? We need to keep the race safe and accessible for all. It is the organizers responsibility to do that.

I think the race was well organized and the situation was unprecedented, so I don't blame them. But we need to take it and learn from it. Safety needs to be the number one priority. If it's not, we'll be telling our grand kids about the race that used to be the greatest in the world..."

Post #3 (as I rethought my previous posts)
"For the record, as the coach of a team that got nailed, I take responsibility for their hit. I'll use this as a valuable learning experience... If it's huge, I'll take them out. It might not have prevented it, but it would be a step in the right direction. The same as the organizers should take responsibility for the chaos. It might not prevent an accident or serious injury, but it'll be a step in the right direction.

For the future:
1) A loud announcement that the start will be delayed until every canoe is out.
2) Someone designated to call the sets from the breakwall.
3) A jetski with a lifeguard following the race. They could be going in and out with the crews guiding them through.

Again, I don't blame the officials as it was unprecedented. But now we know. Let's take the experience and learn from it.
My two cents."

As one final thought on the subject:
A lot of people on the Facebook discussion have been saying that the crews who got slammed did so because they were inexperienced or because of a lack of knowledge. Sorry, but that's frustrating and inflammatory. Of the most widely circulated pictures, one is of Kailua and Lanikai Canoe Club hitting each other and one is of the crew that I coached, Pu'uwai Sr. Masters. Lanikai and Kailua paddle everyday in arguably the roughest water in the world. If anyone knows the ocean, it's them. The woman sitting in four in the Pu'uwai Canoe (the one that you can see in the go-pro footage on the other thread) is the women's coach at our club, is a master sailer who was part of the only women's crew to ever race in the America's cup, has sailed on Hokule'a extensively, and has paddled her entire life. She is as knowledgeable about the ocean as anyone can be. And they got slammed! My point being that any crew, regardless of their experience, could have gotten hit. The ones who didn't were lucky. I know from experience that it is really difficult to time the sets when you're in a canoe. Maybe from the top of the hill (or the breakwall), but from sea level is very difficult. So, please can we start being proactive and stop saying that it was their fault. Again, I know that nobody on this thread has said that, but it is being widely said in other circles.

To finish this, I am extremely sorry for the long winded post. Thank you Numerouno for bringing it up and to everyone else who contributed. I do feel strongly that the ocpaddler community, through debate and discussion, can have a wide influence. Let's keep this going.

#8 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:00pm

I feel like I have a lot to say since as soon as I got to the race start I started watching the sets and timing them. Two other people were there also. I've never thought highly of the brains of the people that run these races, and the way they started this race didn't do anything to change my mind. I couldn't believe that not one of them recommended going to the west side of the channel (one of our favorite posters, pswitzer mentioned it to me first). It was noticeably safer. I went to one race official (or someone I thought was one) and told him "maybe you can call the rest in and tell them to pick their boats up and go other side". This seemed so logical, but really folks, tradition trumps logic and safety with these people.

  1. When we first got out there the duration between were longer. It started out at about 5-6 minutes the got down to the 2 min area. Sets were unpredictable. Waves were in the rage of 6-9 per set with the 6th looking like it was over then BOOM three would come in and would be monsters. Then you would have 1.5 to 2.5 minutes to get out. I told my paddles at 1.5 minutes of starting to get out you'll start clinching your butt because the waves will start coming back.
  2. I told my crew to be one of the first out there because the longer you wait to get out the more rushed you'll feel to make jump so you don't miss the race. Also, the duration between sets appeared to be getting smaller. Which it seems I was correct because as the groups went out the last ones seemed to get the most carnage. Yes I looked like to annoying overprotective parent rushing the girls but, oh well. They got out safely.

So you might ask why I didn't tell our girls to exit other side. It's sort of like what KKBOY said earlier, I thought they knew something I didn't. I didn't have the confidence in my own knowledge, experience, and decision making ability to counter the herd going out the channel. I did know to rush them, I was too weak a leader to make the real correct decision. But......I do have to say I made up for it backing up our boat captain and going more north than south like everyone else was doing in the race. Actually I wanted to get even closer to the rhumb line but once again I crumbled. Some of these self confessions I should have just saved for my diary.

#9 Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:54pm

What a gift that no one was injured or killed. Usually it goes the other way and the finger pointing starts only after someone gets nailed. I think Luke is right on by pointing out that this was unprecedented, so there were no plans let alone backup plans. I don't think a single crew, coach, or official went to bed Saturday night thinking there was the slightest chance anyone might miss the start due to surf. So we all just went through the motions and let the momentum of the event dictate our fate.

I didn't have the balls to keep my crew on the beach, so we got them out there early and crossed our fingers. That's shameful. I didn't realize how badly I had blown it until my girls were already safely out and I found myself joking with Ropati about getting faces of death coverage for his mag. That black humor really let me know I had made a crap decision. If we had shown up for a practice run instead of a race, there's no way I would have sent them out that channel. I've turned crews around in the Ala Wai plenty of times when the harbor channel is way less sketchy than Lono was yesterday. It's not like we lack judgement- I've opted out of the Makai pier run plenty of times when it's cranking: I can see myself getting snuffed way outside Allan Davies and it's just not worth it.

Now that the precedent for possibly hairball conditions at Lono has been set, we need to hold the race organizers accountable to make some backup plans. For starters get some people on board who know nuts water and can manage risk. For instance, Manny and Jim Foti are pretty conservative setting the courses for their races on the windward side in the winter. They scout the course, then give a detailed report to the racers on the beach to explain to everyone exactly where to go, what to expect, and that if you're not absolutely positive in your credentials there's no shame in sitting it out. And the well-trained safety guys on the skis park it in the deep spot in the channel at Kailua or Waimanalo or wherever to show you where to go.

When I was sixteen I paddled our club's regatta canoe with three other guys out of the Santa Cruz Harbor around the jetty to the boardwalk, dressed in a sweat suit and loaded down with the tent and spare paddles. We made it to the end of the jetty, where a 20 second south swell swept right over the top of the rocks and crushed us. Our coach watched in horror from the road above the harbor after dropping us off, he thought he had sent us to our doom watching us plod along inside the jetty as the macking corduroy approached from the other side. Now I know what he felt like, and I'm pretty sure the race organizers feel the same way. Hopefully all of us monday morning quarterbacking is a moot point because the race officials are certainly shitting themselves worse than anyone and making damn sure that never happens again.

By the way, was that just a huge wrap around from the northwest coming through the channel? There didn't seem to be much of a south out in the deep water and the northwest energy was so big and broad you didn't really notice it unless you were looking out at the horizon. And I'm not about to suggest anyone surf La'au point, but if you wanted to commit suicide via bad juju and the like, that would have been a good day to do it.

#10 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:31am

Rule 1 of getting out of surf breaks in a canoe is If its too big, don't go out.
(A good rule of thumb is if the waves are big enough so that you would not surf (board or canoe surf) it, then you probably should not be out in the water, and, perhaps, find another entry point.)

Rule 1 a - study and be patient. (This sometimes may take longer than an hour). Also, know what the tide is doing.

Rule 1b - have a spotter who knows what he/she is doing, and establish clear communication signals (i.e. paddle/no go) and vantage point.

Rule 2. - never, ever, follow a canoe closely or go side by side. You need a safe radius around the canoe in all directions.

Lastly, why not start the race at Kaunakakai if we know there is going to be a swell where Hale O Lono is going to close out?

And, for that matter, if its windy, lets start at Kamalo? (9 or 10 person changes races are perhaps a thing of the past, for them to remain relevant is to lengthen the courses. Lets be honest people the Kaiwi channel starting from Laau is not a good angle and not a fun race. Just saying.)

Glad no one was killed or seriously hurt.

#11 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 7:31am

Lets be honest people the Kaiwi channel starting from Laau is not a good angle and not a fun race. Just saying.

Amen to that.
Maybe that's the starting point for this discussion.

#12 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 8:55am

@Luke - The greatest race is probably Pailolo and not just cause it's a great course.

I second what PS said. If this would have been a Pa'a or KI race we would have had credible on the spot decision making.

#13 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 8:56am

The funnest race is Pailolo. The most extreme race is Hawaiki Nui. The gnarliest race is Ola Mau. The biggest race is Queen Lili'uokalani. The best race is 'Eono. And the greatest race... without a doubt the crown is in the hands of the Na Wahine and the Moloka'i Hoe. The angle is junk. The format is less than ideal (no open class, no iron division). But, these two races are the King and Queen of canoe paddling.

#14 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:06am

After watching this video : I am even more amazed at the sheer recklessness of how the exit from Hale O Lono was conducted. This is just beyond the paddlers and the coaches being held accountable. It starts at the top. This is ridiculous.

#15 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:33am

Na Wahine O Ka Kai Paddle Out 2012 from PF BENTLEY on Vimeo.

#16 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:35am

As the steerswoman of one of the first canoes to make it out of the channel without any issues, I just want to point out that none of the videos we are all watching with awed fascination show the many crews that got out safely. At the very end of the vimeo video posted above, you can see the Kawaihae ladies (black jerseys, yellow hats) to the left of the pack about to head out of the channel. Our canoe was a little further to the left of them. We got our canoe in the water as soon as we could once the pule finished. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker cautioning crews to wait for a set to finish before heading out. The timing was key. The line out also helped. Most canoes in the videos I have seen took a line directly perpendicular to the shore. An angled line a bit to the left seemed to be better from my perspective.

One of the main reasons that our crew was able to get out safely and cleanly was that we were in the water soon enough to not have to jostle with other canoes. A delayed start could have made that possible for more canoes. I tried to judge the sets from our vantage point at the mouth of the harbor, but as others have noted that can be hard to do reliably. The crowd on the jetty shouted, "go, go, go!!" right at about the time my gut was telling me that it was time to go. So in our case, their encouragement gave me confidence and helped us get out. Perhaps they may have encouraged other canoes to go when the timing was less ideal. The short time between sets meant that if you hesitated for even 30 secs to be sure that it was a lull meant that you would start hitting the next set before you made it all the way out. Some crews simply got unlucky with their timing. I am glad more people weren't seriously injured.

While the situation could have been handled better, and hopefully any similar situation will be in the future, to a certain extent we all should be prepared for the craziness the ocean can throw at us when we sign up for long distance canoe races. I suffered canoe damage after punching through a large wave going around Barber's Pt during the E Lau Hoe race. Plenty of canoes huli going around Makapuu during races. I don't want to put so much pressure on the officials to be held "accountable" in situations like this that they start canceling races. We all need to use our own judgment and be ready to either pull ourselves out of a potentially dangerous situation or deal with it.

#17 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:15am

SOLID comment.

#18 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:34am

The exit out of Hale O Lono is unreal. Crews were warned about the exit out of Hale O Lono. It was the steersman’s and coaches responsibility to get their crew out to the starting line safely. I can admit from experience that it is not easy to get through surf like that but I know for sure that with patience and common sense it will make it a little bit easier. Each crew that went through those waves should have sat back and watched. The waves were coming in with intervals, which you can some what see with the videos that are being posted. If you take an experienced steersman and show them those waves they will think about how to get their crew out safely. An example could be Waikiki Surf Club or the Koa canoe that waited and watched each wave come in but had their crew ready to pound out to the starting line. Like the women said from Kawaihae, they got out safely along with many other canoes.

The officials did think about this race long and hard. It was up Na Wahine O Kekai to say what was really going to go down that day. They chose to race. I am sure in the morning coaches and captain meeting there were talks of the high surf and treacherous conditions. The crews probably voted to race, leaving the officials non-responsible for any lose or damage. It is in the registration packet. When signing your name you are bound by contract. OHCRA does have a protocol for Moloka’I Hoe.

OHCRA is lucky!!! Yup, they are lucky that this was not a sanctioned race. Meaning for those who do not understand, OHCRA had NOTHING to do with the crossing of the Na Wahine O Kekai race. It is sad that people are lashing out at OHCRA due to the continuing of the race but in actuality OHCRA did not do anything. Bottom line, OHCRA did not do anything wrong because they had nothing to do with the Na Wahine O Kekai race!


#19 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:42am

I only see one comment that even mentions OHCRA on this thread. Yes, Na Wahine is a separate organization but, as far as I know, they follow all of the OHCRA sanctioned race rules and format. And they go under HCRA's insurance (like OHCRA). So, it does come down on OHCRA to set up a safety protocol.

Most of this discussion is oriented towards the future. Now that we've had a wake-up call, what do we do? To not learn from this experience is reckless and irresponsible and will eventually result in these races losing their insurance. Of course we all need to make every effort to be as safe as possible, but the onus for a safety protocol is on OHCRA (as Na Wahine will follow their lead).

I have a HUGE amount of respect for the race organizers. Nobody else could put on an event of this magnitude. And I know that they listen. I've had numerous conversations with race organizers regarding safety. They are all ears and they are working to make these races as safe as possible. They, more than anyone else, want to make sure that the Moloka'i Hoe and Na Wahine are around for the next 100 years. I am disappointed in the lack of some specific safety regulations, but I will continue to support the race and the organizers. Most importantly, we need to keep safety as a top priority and keep the discussion rolling.

#20 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:55am

On a lighter note: In the race rules it says that the race may be cancelled at the discretion of the organizers. Reasons for cancellation include adverse weather conditions or darkness.
I think that if we wake up on Sunday morning before the Hoe and the sun fails to rise, that we have bigger issues to worry about than whether the race will run.

I'm praying for the sun to rise next Sunday!

#21 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:59am

The sun will rise on Sunday 10/1 and we are currently discussing safety procedures in the event the conditions are that of the women's race. We all put on this race for no other reason than for the paddlers. There is no benefit to anyone who works this race NONE..except to see the paddlers on race morning and their excitement and anticipation of what is to come.
We ask for your continued support and consideration. We continue to learn each year and are dedicated to making improvements so that we can continue to carry the title of KING of all races...

#22 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:35pm

thank you. i dont think the organizers should take any of this criticism personally. for we can all agree we all strive for safety first and foremost. this is a necessary discussion. I believe there were angels at play in the water. thank goodness.

#23 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:47pm

@luke: I completely understand where you are coming from. I can see that they are implimenting many of the rules and regulations from Moloka'i Hoe. I think for the future, younger generations should get invovled and learn from these women that run Na Wahine O Kekai so future race days can be continued and new safety technology can be used to benefit the paddlers. The only thing we can do is learn and move forward.

#24 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:56pm

Actually I disagree.....they should take it personal. Whomever would be in charge of this particular task should vountarily step down. Just becuase they may or may not be a volunteer doesn't change their qualifications. This wasn't that difficult a decision to make. It's not hard to say "we going to delay the race start cause of unforseen difficulties getting to the start line". If that was me in that position I would question my mental ability to be a sutiable person for this task.

Let's not forget that to the west of the channel was a much easier and safer route to get out.

Just like I took it personal on my own self criticism.

#25 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:03pm

i never take my self criticism personally, for that never happens... uno out...

#26 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:09pm

We do take it personal! Keep in mind that everyone is liable, HCRA, Na Wahine O Kekai, coaches, paddlers, escort boat drivers and the list goes on. Everyone who is a decision maker is a stakeholder. Paddlers are insured by HCRA risk liability coverage, official boats are insured by the HCRA liability coverage and escort boats are held accountable for their own insurance. Do the sponsors of the race also take responsibility? For the record OHCRA does not appear on NWOKK's website or race rules. Unlike the Molokai Hoe that is run directly by OHCRA.

If the race director, Hannie Anderson chose not to cancel the race then I would think it would be up to the coach to assess his crews ability. The 1980 NWOKK race was cancelled. Although NWOKK is supported through HCRA, the organization runs its own race. The race rules of the NWOKK & Molokai Hoe are entirely independent of each other.

So I ask .... should HCRA as our founding state organization and who has direct liability have superceded the decision to continue with a demand to cancel the race?

#27 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 2:58pm

I question why we require escort boats for this race. When watching the video and seeing the pictures it didn't look like an escort boat could have helped anyone without putting themselves at risk. This seems like a good marker of when to call a race off or look for other options. If an escort boat cannot assist the canoe they're escorting then whats the use.

However, I wasn't at the race so correct me if I'm wrong on that observation.

I commend the girls and coaches who opted out. I can't imagine how heartbreaking that must have been. The strength to make that decision is very honorable.

For once in my reading I kinda have to agree with healthyearth.

#28 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 3:12pm

I, for one, am very glad that the race was not canceled.

#29 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 3:44pm

I was driving a boat and was near the front of the harbor. I find it easier to refer to the situation at hand since i was there. If someone was in need you bet we'd be there. (Props to Bendt who put his 100,000$ boat on the line to help out the first crew to go down). Is it difficult to help that situation on a boat?? yeah. especially when we decided to let all the paddlers go 1st. for their own safety, it was best that motorized boats werent out there amongst the canoes adding an unnecessary increase in danger. what would have happened if we were out there bloc king the paths of the canoes and manuevering around them???? Could there have been other ways of going through the situation? sure! This was a learning experience for the majority of us out there no matter their experience level. Each person/ crew out there had a responsibility for their own safety. It shows that maybe a few jet ski's could be useful. Perhaps a delay should be recommended. Try and give solutions and not bad mouth paddlers or their race. DLNR is licking its chops at getting the upper hand on events like this. Props to the ladies who who there that day. even those that didn't make it. props to the organizers.

#30 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 4:53pm

1) We will never have a completely safe event. This is an extreme race over an extreme course. It is unsafe and will always be unsafe. You are dealing with nature and the ocean.

2) I reflect on the Ironman Triathlon. Dozens of cyclists blown off of their bikes and severely injured every year. When the winds are up, do they cancel? No. Postpone? No. They have checkpoints and doctors and health stations every 5 miles. They try everything they can. It still is unsafe and that is the challenge, thrill, and also why people watch the special on TV.

3) Yes it is annoying to hear comments from people who don't understand outrigger, surf, or were;t there. Even the best surfers in the world get taken out by sets every once in a while. Sets are predictable but also not predictable.

4) I hope we take a real good look at safety across the board. Don;t forget this event and plan for it, Don;t forget Luke's injury and plan around that.

5) This is important, but probably more important, given the older paddlers that are racing and what happened at the World Sprints, might be to educate everyone on heat stroke and cardiac emergencies on the ocean and what to do. Maybe an expert can add to this discussion. Probably more of a reality than this big surf at Lono happening again.

#31 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 5:27pm

With these videos splashed all over the web and people claiming how extreme they are and this race is you can bet someone else besides DLNR is licking their chops. If the company that sells insurance to Na Wahine or any race sees anything like this I'd bet they're thinking about charging 3-5 times more. All they see when they look at these pictures of people and boats getting flung about is a massive liability. That's if they are even willing to insure a race again.

#32 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 7:02pm

some of you might remember a few years ago when the waikiki rough water swim turned into a mass rescue effort.just before the race start, the current turned into a freight train pulling towards diamond head. there was a hurricane off the big island and when the tide switched it turned into a raging river going the wrong way. the message that went out to all participants was that if you werent a strong swimmer, stay onshore. well, peer pressure and naivete and plain stupidity prevailed and over 300 swimmers had to be rescued. it wasnt fun for anyone, swimmer or race organizers.
we learned a lot that day. we were very lucky no one drowned.but we were criticized for not cancelling the swim. the city council wanted to charge us for the rescues and the coast guard was ready to terminate all future waikiki roughwater swims.
we sat down after everyone cooled off and had a good discussion with city and county water safety, coast guard and everyone else involved.
yes, it now costs us a bunch more $$ to put on the swim, but safety is # 1. we hire trained life guards to patrol the course with jet skies and boards. we also have over 60 water safety volunteers on the 2.4 mile course. we pay a lot more for insurance now. and everyone must wear a bright colored swim cap to be visable. we have cut off times in place for 1/2 way and the finish.
the moral of this is that the na wahine organizing committee must sit down with those involved and come up with a safety plan. now. while it is fresh in everyones mind. dont say this will never happen again. it is the ocean and we arent in charge. safety is always #1. everyone involved in the paddle out is very lucky to be alive.

#33 Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:22pm

I had a front row seat an saw this whole thing go down. It was a complete cluster at the entrance of Hale O Lono harbor. The majority of the Canoes an crews really didn't know what to do an how to exit threw the surf. If you knew how to time the waves you got out. If you didnt then you got worked or got lucky. I did not see any offical boats there at the mouth guiding or helping anyone out. It was like a free for all. I think if we had an offical boat at the wall helping guide canoes out there would have had less casualties. I held our crew at the Jetty wall till we felt it was safe for them to exit. Then we pushed them threw. It was a stressful time for all of us. Once we exited the harbor there wasn't that much time before they started the race. I think they should have delayed the race till they got everyone out to the starting line, made sure everyone was ok or at least accounted for then start the race. These were just my observations on what happened an what I think we could improve on. I'm just so thankful that no one got seriously hurt or died. As our escort boat captain said the best Ho Bullie! Dat Was Nuts!!!

#34 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:50am

your going to run into the same situation when the ocean gets to rough there will be certain crews that don't have the ability to handle the conditions the kaiwi dishes out. What then! Do you cancel the race. NO! Absolutely not! Its like in Olamau this past year we went on a day that wasn't for everyone. I didn't see any problems with the top crews getting out safely. We shouldv'e raced the day before, but certain crews were concerned they couldn't get off the beach due to surf and the winds were blowing 30+ knots. Some people went that day and it turned out the next day was even bigger in the channel. The hoe and na wahine are the superbowl of canoe paddling. People train year round for this race and spend big amounts of money to go and do it. If you can't handle the conditions then you don't belong out there.! If races start getting cancelled do to some crews not being able to get out, all you will do is hurt the top crews that are there, prepared for anything ( any condition) and ready to race for the title of World Champion. This reace isn't for everyone. Maybe you should have to qualify in order to do the race. Thats how it works in many other top races around the world. You gotta prove that your crew is capable.

#35 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 7:24am

Of course safety is paramount and I don't wanna be reklous or see anyone get hurt. Maybe you bring in Archie Kalepa and the Hawaiian water patrol guys and they detremine whether you can paddle out or not based on your crew level.

#36 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 7:28am

I'm not sure how the theme of this thread got to canceling the race. Most people discussing here were discussing the lack of thought that went in to making it safer going out to the start.

#37 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 7:54am

I would like to express my respect to all the sportswomen that exposed themselves to that severe conditions. My deep respect !

And I would like to express my congratulations to all of you because of this openminded and wholehearted discussion you do conduct on this platform. This is a true treasure.

We do have grave race conditions over here in Europe as well. Do take a look at this video of the Vendee Va'a (kind of the european Hawiki Nui Va'a):

15 Canoes started - five did not arrive. One canoe was a total loss, four others were badly damaged. Luckily no paddler got severely hurt. Afterwards occurred the same discussion as on this forum. But unfortunately we do not have a place like OCPaddler so the conclusions to be drawn might have an incidental character.

Do make it better ! You can't or even want to ban the risk totally. Even top teams might get in trouble and can become a danger for assumed weaker teams paddling next by. But you can manage the amount of risks for all future participants. And for sure most of the actions will be cheap and effective at the same time. Maybe most of it will be a set of sanity and reason.

#38 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 8:03am

Aukina-- I don't actually see a single suggestion from anyone on here that they should have cancelled the race. And Olamau is a very different type of race. It is an extreme event. They don't cater to crews from around the world; the race is catered to the most extreme/experienced paddlers out there. That's not the case with the Hoe or the Na Wahine. The reason they are the superbowl is because everyone, within reason, is encouraged to come. I like your idea of an expert waterman out there, but I don't think anyone has the ability to determine who can race or who can't. But someone to help people get out safely? Awesome!

Healthyearth-- I don't think that anyone should step down for this. Again, it was unprecedented. Like Anamanama said, they put this race on for us. They don't do it for themselves. Race Director is probably the second most thankless (and unpaid!) job in the world (behind the POTUS). They get no credit when the race goes well, but they get all the blame when it doesn't. Again, we need to focus our comments on constructive advice. I can guarantee you that the race directors for the various organizations are reading this thread.

Just Sayin-- In response to what you said about "OHCRA does not appear on NWOKK's website or race rules:" here is the first line of their race rules posted on the website:

OHCRA Race Rules will apply unless modified by the Na Wahine Race Committee.

And OHCRA is mentioned five more times in the rules. I understand that the Na Wahine and OHCRA are completely different organizations, but the format of the races is close to identical. I am no official, but I believe if OHCRA takes the lead in this then Na Wahine will follow.

#39 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 9:10am

I don't think it was anyone's intent to suggest to cancel the race. Merely and simply, the consensus seems to be that more patience and organization, perhaps, could have prevented the mayhem.

#40 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 9:02am

@ Luke- You may be correct in your assertion that the person shouldn't be relieved of their responsibilities. But, your argument "why" is flawed. Altruistic reasons for doing a job doesn't give one the ability to skirt responsibility and accountability. Whether you are being paid handsomely or volunteering, performance should be judged by the same standards. If I were to volunteer my services to build boats at a very reputible canoe builder and the boats that I built broke apart in the middle of a hk. Now when the owner of the sunken boat calls up to say "I almost died today cause your canoe fell apart on a flat hk run". By your argument if the canoe builder says " well actually you're not the only one to complain, but I'll tell you like I told all the other guys- you should thank Healthyearth because nobody has thanked him or payed him". I imagine at that point he'd say "oh if that's the case then no worries. Tell him thank you, order me another one from him".

#41 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:38am

:) Good point, I can't argue with that.
Mainly, I feel that this was the warning shot. If it happens again and is still a chaotic mess, then heads should roll.

#42 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:52am

Also, I feel like I have given constructive criticism. I gave to an official before the race started and I'm giving now. Constructive criticism isn't defined as being nice. I've given criticism and I've given solutions and none of it has been emotional or from hearsay, it's been my own experience, I've judged myself just as honestly as I've judged the race official(s). Malice towards none and no biases toward any.

#43 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:52am

Sorry, I sent that before you wrote back. Disregard.

You know I'm totally excited that Luke and Aukina3 are on this tread.

#44 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:54am

As far as suggesting the race be cancelled, I posed the hypothetic question in my previous post (the 2nd one in the thread) because that's what a lot of non-paddlers who saw the news and even a few of the paddlers in the race are suggesting, and it's the question the TV "news" stories I saw asking (objective reporting, yeah right). I think the answer is a big NO, it shouldn't have been cancelled. Following Betteridge's Law of Headlines the answer to the news anchor's question should be a big NO. My (least) favorite was when they showed the race director saying something like it's a bit choppy but not too big (obviously talking about the conditions outside), and then they immediately cut to a shot of one of the canoes getting hammered by the surf, obviously taking the race director out of context to make her look incompetent.

I think the question needs to be answered, and reasons given. I think public opinion needs to be addressed, since it could have a significant impact on future races.

#45 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 11:07am

The Moloka'i committee will be implementing additional safety measures for the upcoming race. We will have jet ski's on the water at Lono so that we can assist in the event we have dangerous conditions. We do have extremely experience water man on the ocean. They are life guards, search and rescue and EMT's and our official boat drivers are some of the best in the state. And we will have procedures for exiting the harbor and will be prepared if the situation arises. With that said, more than likely it will be the longest, flattest race in the history of the Hoe. Because we are preparing for the worse and praying for the best. All of the race organizer's do their very best to prepare, we are continuously learning and we can only hope that the paddlers will FOLLOW the instructions given and heed to the official boats AND keep their escort boats radios on and clear the channel for emergencies only. We are doing our part, please do yours.

#46 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 2:22pm

Glad no worse injuries happened.

#47 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 6:25am

Prior to putting our canoe in the ocean, I met with our crew of very experienced, qualified water women and shared our plan on getting out to the line safely. I stated that we would be patient, relax, and wait for a lull and a time when less than a few canoes were heading out to provide room to manuever safley out just in case. There would be no rush and we would not be anxious (I have to admit that both Darcie Gray and myself were scared) and if anyone tells you they were not, they have no respect for the ocean. We waitied patiently, after a set broke Brent Chang on the "Dana" yelled "go Denise" knowing your "qualified" escorts help in trusting directions (thanks Brent). It was very confusing listening to the spectators on the jetty, yelling "go, go, go,, no,, no, no, in the same breath. Jet skis would totally have helped. We easily made it out, but the point here is we made a plan on the beach, we respect each others abilities, we were patient and as Darcie said "if we are the last canoe on the line, no worries, they won't start without us..." No one should have felt rushed. Many lessons were learned and that is why history is so important, serves to teach so we are better prepared for similar future situations. I thanked the following gods who guided and watched over each and every one of us (Kala Kukea, Michael Tong, Leighton Look, Sammy Steamboat). just me- denise

#48 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:20pm

Hey, this has been a great thread, but sometimes good to go back and re-read the beginning (thanks, numerouno):

Congrats to all the ladies in yesterday's race. Awesome job!

Now, onto safety, a couple of questions and observations:

Pretty un-controversial, and lots of positive (and small kine not-so-positive) outpouring followed.

I would like to thank numerouno for his (extremely) thought-provoking post, and, of course, humbly ask on his behalf for your vote this coming November.

Also, lots of people have referred to the crews/coaches who (to quote the last poster) "decided they were not prepared to exit through existing conditions"... of course I could be wrong but I believe not a single crew decided not to race... couple of crews (Kailua novice, Lanikai ?) had either broken iako or injured paddler(s), other than that all the wahine went, and finished the race, without further incident. So don't listen to TV news and don't congratulate some imaginary crew that decided they didn't want to charge 'um. There was no such crew (to my knowledge... if I'm wrong, correct me here).

#49 Wed, 09/26/2012 - 10:23pm

As to denisedarvalchangs thoughts about them not starting the race without them, well, the truth is they did start the race without waiting for our canoe. After our huli in the big surf and getting pounded by the waves, we were further insulted by having the race start before we made it to "the line". Guess we don't rate.

#50 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:43am

Has anyone taken into account the liability that could, would arise if the officials told you when to go or not go? If someone gets worked and the officials told you to go then are they liable for your canoe if it gets broken. Just something to think about. My previous comment of canceling the race I brought up because certain people were on the news saying that it should have been cancelled. the title of this thread was about the debacle of the na wahine. just throwing out there that at some point this race won't be for everyone and canceling the race in my opinion would take the prestige out of the race. It would be like Superbowls only played in domes.

#51 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 4:25pm

I don't quite understand that last comment? Why would an official be liable for a canoe which was entered in a race where each entrant/competitor understands what they are entering, the risks involved and accepts those risks.

I would assume that all entrants/competitors are expected to sign and submit the liability waiver as well.

#52 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 6:10pm

if an official tells someone they are ok to do the race then the paddler assumes the official has deemed the conditions safe and participates. it's similar to waving someone out at a 4 way stop. if you look across the intersection and wave someone out and they pull forward and smack a pedestrian or hit a car then YOU will be liable. this may seem rediculous but in this day and age it happens. this is why drivers taking a CDL class are told to never ever direct other drivers.

#53 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:03pm

aukina3 I appears to make a solid irrefutable point.

#54 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:59pm

since when is: "they told me to do it" a credible, not to mention an allowable, defense??

#55 Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:06pm

I agree with Aukina3... Crews should have to qualify for Na wahine and Hoe. Lets just say Pialolo Cahllenge could be that bar. ***no inside agenda in the above post;)

#56 Sat, 09/29/2012 - 8:56am

I'm just wondering if this were the men's race, would there be similar discussion on it? There's no doubt that the gals all did an outstanding job and I tip my ball cap to them with much respect and admiration.

#57 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 9:18am

Disagree greatly about qualifying for races. 40 minutes of bad surf=qualification requirements. Doesn't make sense to me. It will lead to a huge headache and more work than anyone wants to deal with.

There needs to be more education and smarter coaching for sure. Coaches and Clubs really need to make sure they are taking a crew to Hawaii that can handle the conditions and planning ahead.

Back to the main issue- One universal group in Hawaii coordinating all calendars (V1, OC1, OC6, and V6, Youth), regattas and races, safety trainings and regulations and sponsorship. Thereby priming Hawaii crews for the the future and competing in Tahiti and World Sprints.

#58 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:15am

Geez, how bout the race organizer just admit that they didn't do a very good job of making an "in the moment" decision. All they had to do is give options to getting out there and say we'll delay the race so everyone doesn't have to rush and make rush decisions.

If there's lightning before a outdoor baseball game they just delay the start time till things clear up. Let's just keep it simple instead of over thinking this.

I did a Kaokea (Big Island) race a couple of years ago and the surf was big getting out. They had the good mind set to say "we are going to take our time and all get out there safely". And that's what happened and that was good "in the moment" decision making. I think we started a good hour and half later but no big deal.

#59 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 1:01pm

Now wait a minute, why should those paddlers who made it out in time for the designated start time be penalized for doing so? Why should they have to wait and wait and wait until every canoe makes it to the starting line? Delaying the race, may actually give those waiting on the beach an advantage over those paddlers that have been holding water at the stating line for a long time.

#60 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 8:26pm

Oh Man Koa ... Can of worms you opened : )


#61 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 8:42pm

koacanoe, All of the vids of that day dont even come close to being their in real life! It was literally life threatening! Out of every 10 canoes went out at least 2 did not make it before the swells came rolling in. Their were 70+ canoes! One of the sets came in and took out 6 canoes at once! Thats how bad it was. So starting only 20 canoes before 50+ were still trying to reach the line is super rediculous!!!! Its good they waited because these canoe paddlers want to win when everybody is lined up so nobody has any excuses!!! But it really was unreal to watch!! SCARY!

#62 Mon, 10/01/2012 - 8:58pm

Very true oneshot, for there's no doubt that's what they did. True sportsmanship! With this race, the gals proved they got "the right stuff" and are highly qualified. I support their decision to go for it.

#63 Tue, 10/02/2012 - 9:35am

Bottom line: it was a big day, we (na wahine) manned up and did what we had to do to race and tho it may have been nuts getting out WE DID and I'm pretty sure given the option most of us would do it again.

Should they have cancelled the race? NEGATIVE, we are all well aware of what we are getting ourselves into and if you don't maybe it's time to find a new hobbie.

But I do have to say, pulling up that morning and seeing the nalu made me thankful I was from Hawaii and not someplace like Vancouver! Not to dog Vancouver, but I'm pretty sure they aren't exposed to waves like that on a regular basis...or ever.

#64 Tue, 10/02/2012 - 8:24pm

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