Author Topic: 50 Years of Paddling in California- PART 2  (Read 6819 times)

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Chris King

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50 Years of Paddling in California- PART 2
« on: August 03, 2009, 11:24AM »
Another email from Scora on California Outrigger history...note reference to Allie's Dad and Grandfather below...

Hi All,

Bud isn't a computer person so I apologize early for weird language and awkward wording. He tells me to type exactly what he writes out and it is hard to decipher! He doesn't know I'm saying this but, as many of you know, Bud has a great love for this sport especially the history of it and has been working hard to gather information and facts of the first Catalina Channel Crossing. He hopes you all pass it on to your club members. I hope you all enjoy it!

Malia Hohl

Bud's daughter/secretary :) 


   How does one person born of modest means, simple times, and Puerto Rican ancestry become such a prominent figure in Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling?  One way is to dream and to put that dream into action and to keep believing in that dream and to make others see and believe in that quest.  To become that preverbal Pied Piper, you need training.

Toots’ father was a manager of a sugar plantation store near Hilo when he was born in 1901.  Sugar was the #1 product and employer of the populous at that time.  When Toots was a teenager, his family moved to Oahu.  At 14 he became a member of Outrigger Canoe Club.  At that time, the club had been in existence for six years and the club’s purpose was to teach youngsters the Hawaiian water sports.

When you walk amongst the shadows of prominent gentlemen of Honolulu, some of those life ambitions should rub off.  A few of those greats were: Alexander Ford (founder of OCC), JP Cooke of Castle and Cook, Duke Kahanamoku (Olympic gold medalist swimmer), Buster Crabbe, Walter MacFarlane, and Stanford Dole (pineapple magnet), the list is longer but you get the idea.  His coach was the famous “Dad” Center who had been Duke’s Olympic swimming coach.

After graduation from McKinley High School, Toots went to University of Hawaii and received a degree in engineering and surveying.  It is these skills that led him to a land-surveying job for a water project on the island of Molokai in 1934.  A couple years prior, Toots helped organize a beach concession at the club which would help later on.  It is on Molokai where Toots gets his idea for crossing the Kaiwi Channel to Oahu; just like King Kamehameha I has done centuries earlier.

After many years of promoting the race to his club and others and being turned down because of a potential hazardous crossing, canoes could get destroyed and other problems.  Finally he was approached by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  They said if 3 entries were found they would sponsor the race and it would become part of the Aloha Week festivities.  Right away Toots contacted Waikiki Surf Club (WSC) and Wally Froiseth, then some boys on Molokai and David Nu’uhiwa from the Hawaiian Surf Club.  Kukui O’ Lanikaula of Molokai won.  Toots’ mountain has been climbed and conquered.  However, Toots had bigger visions.

The very next year, 1953, a lifeguard from Santa Monica who was spending his off season in Waikiki, wanted to paddle the channel on his paddleboard during the canoe race.  The Aloha Week officials sponsored him.  He finished the race on 9 hours and 20 minutes.  That lifeguard was Tommy Zahn.  As in the past, Toots felt a door has been put before him, another quest, which is bringing canoe paddling to California.  Toots had conversations about paddling in California with him and what it might take to get it going.  Surfing was brought to California in the late 1800s by the royalty and revived by Duke in 1908.  California boys, including Tommy Zahn, were starting to come to Hawaii in droves to surf Waikiki and North Shore and Makaha.  Why couldn’t outrigger paddling take hold in California?

Tommy had competed in paddleboard races all over, but his winning the Catalina to Manhattan Beach race in 1956-58 is significant.  It was when Tommy obtained a job as a lifeguard for Newport Beach in `58 that Toots’ door sprang open.  In early 1959, Tommy had a meeting with Al Oberg (Newport harbor master) and Ira Dowd.  Ira was the president of the newly founded Newport Dunes.  At that meeting Ira said the Dunes would underwrite the race from Catalina to the Dunes in September of that year.

Toots and Louie Kahanamoku (Sandy’s dad and Alli’s grandfather) contacted Noah Kalama (Tuby’s father) to see if he would like to go to California to teach and train some boys in the sport of paddling and have a race across the Catalina Channel.  Accepting the quest, Noah moved to California and started to gather people for training.  One key person is Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison who Noah found down in Doheny.  Noah knew Lorrin through Ethel, Lorrin’s sister, who had married Joe Kukea who was a member of WSC when Noah was the head coach in `57.

So Lorrin comes up and brings some pals.  Another key person is Ron Drummon, also famed surfer from Doheny.  He had written a book on surfing in the early 50s and taken up making movies of surfing.  This is one of the keys to our history in California.  He shot the entire event from arrival to sunset that day in September of `59.

The very next day after the race, Toots and Louie were off to Santa Monica to plan next year’s conquest which would end up being the Malibu to Santa Monica race and the Santa Monica Sea Festival.  Those two, but mainly Toots would go on to: Tahiti (1970), Japan (1976), England (1978), France (1978), and Germany (1981) before any international group could think about planning events at those locations.  Toots formed the International Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association back in 1953 for his spreading of his seeds of aloha and canoe paddling.  Many of Hawaii’s youth have benefitted from his generosity over the years.

I personally know of 6 boys who benefitted from that trait when he asked Hawaii to send an invitation to some California 18 and unders to participate in their 1972 State Championships.  So there is a timeline of Toots’ dreams and activities leading up to our history.

We will be having the memorabilia of the 1959 crossing at this year’s event on Sunday.  As usual, the Cecil B. DeRader show should be a hit because a few of the first crossing participants are still around to tell of the event.

The Committee wishes to thank Peter Caldwell, Gaylord Wilcox, Mary Jane Kahanamoku, Outrigger Canoe Club, Tommy Holmes, The Star Bulletin, The Honolulu Advertiser, and Jake Jacobs for taking the time to write down Toots’ visions for all to read and maybe aspire to.