Forget about prize money and big purses. Polynesian pride is on the line this weekend at the 58th annual Molokai Hoe, a 41-mile test of skill and endurance that will play out Oct. 10 on the turbulent waters between Molokai and Oahu. A huge rivalry has been sustained between Tahiti and Hawaii for the past several years and this year Hawaii has invested big in taking back what is theirs. Many of Hawaii's best paddlers have joined forces under the Team Primo banner. Their mission: Wrest back the de facto world championship of outrigger canoe paddling from the powerful Tahitian teams.
It's no easy task. Tahiti has sent five teams to the Channel, including four-time champion Shell Va'a, the course record holders and odds-on favorites to make it five in a row. While Hawaiian outrigger paddling is based on local clubs and talented amateurs, the well-funded Tahitian teams boast crews of full-time paddlers, many of them professionals in all but name.
The hand-picked Team Primo, with sponsorship from Hawaii's local brewery, intends to take a page out of the Tahitian playbook. While none of the Hawaiian paddlers are drawing paychecks for no-show jobs, they are among the very best that Hawaii has to offer.
"Team Primo is looking really, really strong this year. We've got the best paddlers in Hawaii on the team and they've been training really hard," said Primo frontman Keoni Watson. "We're really looking forward to watching Team Primo compete this year."
On a competitive tear heading into the Molokai Hoe, Team Primo has a slew of victories notched into their hull and is looking stronger than ever as race day approaches. With wins at the Henry Ayau race, the Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Race and the Queen Liliuokalani race, Team Primo has become the premiere Hawaiian team heading into the Molokai Hoe.
Composed of an eclectic mix of Hawaii's strongest paddlers, the hull of Team Primo includes a veritable who's who of the big names in the Hawaiian paddling community, including Kai Bartlett, Kekoa Cramer, Tyson Kubo, Peter Konoliva, Al Van Geison, Felipe Gomes, Mike Judd, Danny Ching, and Mael Carey.
All eyes will be on the Kaiwi channel Sunday morning, when Team Primo squares off against Shell Va'a, the other Tahitian challengers and some very strong Hawaiian club teams. Tune in to the first-ever webcast of the Molokai Hoe, and see this amazing race for yourself. Tune in to the live webcast Sunday, Oct. 10 at 1:45 p.m. Eastern (10:45 a.m. Pacifc, 7:45 a.m. Hawaii) http://www.livestream.com/oceanpaddlertv