High school graduating seniors Allyssa Ferrer and Roselyn Domingo had never paddled a canoe until a recent outing with the Kihei Canoe Club. “I thought it was a good workout,” Ferrer said. “It was really fun and it was a good experience to go out in the water and get exercise,” Domingo added. The two were among members of the Focus Maui Nui Youth Alliance who learned about the art of paddling outrigger canoes during a visit led by Deb Pearsall of the Kihei Canoe Club. With the support of Maui Economic Development Board, the Youth Alliance gathers monthly to explore and gain a greater understanding of key components in the Maui community.
Kihei Canoe Club’s community outreach projects have included providing canoe paddling experiences to Maui visitors and to residents with physical limitations. Pearsall said the club pays special attention to its youth crews, giving lessons on Hawaiian chants, star navigation and how outrigger canoe paddling was an integral part of the islands’ history. “The perpetuation of Hawaiian culture, that’s definitely a part of it,” Pearsall said. “For our young people it’s really about connecting with their ancestry, their heritage.” The Kihei Canoe Club has approximately 300 members, half of whom paddle competitively and the other half recreationally. “We encourage kids to get involved in paddling because ultimately, college scholarships are available,” Pearsall said.
Ferrer said she doesn’t think she’ll join a paddling club because her schedule is full of senior year activities. But both she and Domingo — lifelong residents of Maui — have acquired a better appreciation for canoe paddlers. “I give them credit and props, using the strength of their upper body and getting out there in the water is a lot of work, but a lot of fun too,” Domingo said. “I think everyone should try it out at least once,” Ferrer added. The youth also helped with replacing cushions in six of the club’s 14 or so canoes. Pearsall said she was glad to have hosted the Youth Alliance. “It was a great opportunity to meet them and get to how they feel about responsibility in their community.”