Time For Canoe Teams To Take A Plunge

A Hanalei canoe club is inviting other clubs to enter teams in the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge, which just keeps growing in popularity

Namolokama O Hanalei Canoe Club is taking advantage of Hanalei Bay’s summertime magnificence by hosting its seventh annual Swim Challenge July 27 on the iconic North Shore.

“There’s probably no better venue in the world – it’s just stunning for an open-water swim,” says Gregg Kravitz, one of the event’s organizers.

Adults and keiki are invited to participate in the competition, which has grown from some 60 swimmers its inaugural year to nearly 200 last year.

The swim meet will be comprises of four races, including one for children ages 8 and under and another for ages 9 to 12.

“Kids love it,” says Kravitz. “They talk about it for years.”

First-, second- and third-place medals are awarded to girls and boys. All keiki who participate and finish earn a ribbon.

“To see them on the shoreline before they start with all the anxiety and the nerves, and then to see the smiles on their faces when they finish with all the applause they get, is so rewarding,” says Dick Smith, one of the founders of Namolokama O Hanalei Canoe Club.

No matter what their age, Smith says anyone who participates will walk away fulfilled. For some, swimming in the open ocean water alone is a challenge to overcome.

“They want to do it, they think they want to try it, but they are somewhat concerned about it,” explains Smith. “Once they get in the water and they go out and do the swim, they come through and experience the finish line – many of them winning metals – without even realizing that they’re going to, and they have a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Adults can participate in the 1,000-meter or 3,000-meter races that consist of various designated age groups 13 and up.

The competition is meant to boost physical fitness for keiki and adults while also promoting water safety. It originated to help raise funds for Namolokama O Hanalei Canoe Club, and profits also are donated to nonprofits around the island.

Smith and wife Barbara, who also helped found the club, came up with the contest idea.

“My thought was to have an identity for the club,” says Smith, who voluntarily agreed to take the lead in organizing the event and has since passed the reins to Kravitz.

Having a swim challenge seemed like the perfect idea, as Smith is a waterman himself and enjoys participating in athletic events, including triathlons.

Barbara Smith also is a swimming enthusiast. “I’ve been in love with the water since I was a kid,” she says.

She and her husband also enjoy paddling.

“It’s very spiritual, very moving,” says Barbara Smith about the sport. “It’s also social. We have fun, but then we work hard. You learn to compete or you learn to come together and focus as a team.”

Kravitz is excited to be part of the Namolokama O Hanalei team. Though he moved to the island 10 years ago, he joined the canoe club about two years ago.

“It’s restful, even though you’re exercising,” he says about paddling. “There also is a sense of serenity being out on the water.”

In addition, paddling gives him the opportunity to be near sea life.

“And you’re also partaking in something that’s been around for a 1,000 or more years,” he adds.

Experiences like these wouldn’t be possible without the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge helping to fund the club’s activities. Kravitz is hopeful that this year some 300 people will participate. Since the state regatta will be held the following week at Hanalei Bay, canoe clubs are encouraged to enter at least six of their members as swimmers.

“Swimming always has been a solo event,” says Dick Smith. “This year, we’d like to attract canoe club teams.” He also would like to see the challenge become a signature event for the North Shore.

“There is something there for all levels,” he says, noting that past participants have been anywhere from age 4 to 80. “It’s truly a family event.”

Visit hanaleibayswimchallenge.com for more information or to register. cocomidweek@gmail.com

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