Masters Are Ready for Blast-Off

Molokai Canoe Club prepares for a historic race full of good times.

[Appeared in the Nov. 9, 2008 issue of The Molokai Dispatch]

By Catherine Cluett

Six men make their way home over rose-tinted waters, paddles splashing in unison, with the sunset at their backs. They pull their wa`a beside the darkening palms, and each grab a beer. “Practice is just starting,” they laugh.

These men are the two-year defending champions of the Master Blasters, a dual-sport event featuring paddling and drinking. They have prepared long and hard for both, and are ready to take the prize again on Saturday, Nov. 22.

“Molokai is the team to beat,” says supporter Luana Kaaihue. Twenty four teams from around the state registered for the race last year, and Molokai team members expect a similar turn-out this year.

“It’s a fun serious race,” laughs team member Ed Misaki. But there seem to be enough regulations to put Olympic rule-makers to shame.

First, there are age limits. Every paddler in the boat has to be at least 40 years old for men, and 35 for women. But you can’t stack your boat with all 40-year olds – the minimum sum age of all team members must be 290 years for men and 250 years for women.

Proper attire can’t be forgotten, either. Each crew dresses in team costume; last year, Molokai’s own became chefs for the day. There is a separate prize for the best-dressed team.

Next, is the drinking. At the start of the course, the wa`a wait unrigged. The men must chug a beer before racing other teams to put their boat together. You think that’s tough? The race hasn’t even begun.

There are four official stops along the six mile course. Each team has their own bar-maid and race official. “The barmaid is to make sure the beers are there, and the official is to make sure you drink them,” says Walter Rawlins, team steersman and captain. At every stop, each crew member must get out of the canoe, run to shore, drink a beer, and run back. Teams who fail to complete the task will be faced with disqualification. Rules vary for the women’s race, which starts 20 minutes after the men’s.

The course, which begins at Kawela Rice Patch and ends at Malama Park, is designed to stay in shallow water for the safety of the paddlers. Three escort boats follow closely should assistance be needed. The Fire Department and paramedics also stand at the ready – with hoses to spray paddlers as they’re nearing the end of the race.

Liko Wallace, President of the Molokai Canoe Club, says this event is the club’s main fundraiser. Each boat pays a $150 entry fee, and the team sells t-shirts and other items.

Afterwards, an all-out party ensues at the finish line with live music, prizes, and of course, drinking. First prize is one gallon of dried squid. “The men catch them, the women dry them, and the winner gets a prize valued at $300 to $400 dollars,” says Misaki.

The trick of the trade for this race, according to Rawlins? “Win; and if you don’t win, drink like you did.”

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About Catherine Cluett

I'm a freelance journalist, editor and photographer on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
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