Author Topic: 50 Years of Paddling in California- PART 3  (Read 7428 times)

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Chris King

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50 Years of Paddling in California- PART 3
« on: August 10, 2009, 11:26AM »
Another installment from Bud...

The crews of 1959

The all-star resumes


         Well we’ve heard about two canoes that came over on July 27, 1959 and Toot’s vision, now about the third canoe: the Malia.  It belonged to Waikiki Surf Club, since buying it from “Dad” Center in 1948 for $2,000.  The Malia didn’t come up with other canoes because Surf Club used the Malia in the “state” races on August 1, 1959 at Keehi Lagoon.  She was, and still is, Surf Club’s pride and joy.  She had participated in every Molokai Race since its inception in 1952.  Of those seven years, she finished 1st four times and 2nd three times.  In Hawaii, in 1950 (when HCRA officially started) until 1959 the majority of the races were regattas with turn flags, 4-6 regattas a season, which they still have, with 12 events: Boys 13, 15, 17, novice women and men, Jr. 4 and Sr. 4 men, freshman 6, Jr. 6, Sr. 6 men and women with 14 clubs vying for 8 lanes.  Of all of those events, the Malia soundly won the majority.

         So the Malia is the first all-star selected by the Hawaiian coaches Louie Kahanamoku, Frank Henriques from Kai O’ Pua, and Sol Kalama from Holomua.  Now for the meat in the canoe.  All the paddlers were senior men division caliber (not the age group like we have, but the best of the open).  Joe Meyers from Healani and Jake Keliikoa looked like the strokers; Archie Ka’aua from Outrigger Canoe Club had won the Molokai race in `56 and `58; Albert “Mimi” Serikawa was from Kai Oni; Chris Bode who won Molokai in `57 for Kai Oni was representing Lanikai along with Joe Gilman; Charlie Kanei from Holomua and Charles Kamoi (Molokai) were both paddlers/coaches from their clubs; Dougy Carr also from Outrigger and Sonny Henriques was from Kai O’ Pua.  Finally Blue Mukua and Dutchy Kino were from Waikiki Surf Club who both had won Molokai in `53, `55 and `58.  So that rounds out the Hawaiian crew.

         The California crew consisted of mostly beginner canoe paddlers except for Dave Ane..  Dave had paddled in Hawaii as a Jr. boy for Hui Nalu 3 years earlier.  George Kopa paddled for Waikiki in `57 in the Jr. men division.  Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison only steered surf canoes ever since he received his nickname in Hawaii in the late 30s.  He surfed, paddle boarded, and dove for abalone.  Ron Drummond was also a canoe surfer from Doheny.  Jack Bell was a lifeguard from Newport Beach.  Tom and Mike Johnson paddled flat water canoes and kayaks.  Dan Vafiadis was a stuntman who did a lot of Clint Eastwood movies.  Ted Seizmore was a police officer from Long Beach.  John Sadlier, Doug Wood (a teacher from Long Beach) and Dick Harrison rounded out the crew from the area that paddled the Catalina Channel Crossing that very first year.

         Again, the year was 1959.  Mattel Toy Co. just introduced the Barbie, Hawaii just received statehood a month earlier, gas was .25/gal, Dick Dale was just starting out as “king of the surf guitar,” the twist was introduced earlier this year, Watusi, swim, hully gully, Bristol stomp and surfer stomp were the rage, Kingston trio, Joan Biaez, Bob Dylan were the other popular singers of the era, the Beatles were 4 years away from being introduced, and the surf scene was just about to begin.  Westside Story and Ben Hur were the big movies.  Ozzie and Harriet Dobie Gillis, Leave it to Beaver, Wagon Train, 77 Sunset Strip, Father Knows Best, and Wanted Dead or Alive were your family TV programs.  February 3, 1959 was “the day the music died.”  Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield.  Oh yeah, the Ford Motor Co. stopped production on the Edsel on November 19, 1959.  Wow! Break my heart.  Sorry I just thought you history buffs might want to know a little more about 1959.

         The race took place on Sunday, September 20 and from the movie, it seemed that Hawaii started in a direction towards Huntington Beach.  There was no “lead” boat back then.  There was a large vessel that transported most of the paddlers and spectators across the channel and also towed the 2 canoes across.  That vessel was the “Lucky Dutchman,” a 110 foot converted subchaser.  Bob Yeakle, a car dealership owner, was a friend of the harbormaster Al Ober.  Ron Drummond’s film crew, which probably consisted of 3 cameras, filmed the crossing, lighting and focus length makes some footage seem unclear, but the mere sighting if everything is excellent history of this inaugural event.  Saturday afternoon on Avalon, they had a welcoming in the beach and a goat roast on a spit/dinner along with entertainment for the crowd.  In the morning, Duke Kahanamoku, who was the Grand Marshall, started the first race across the channel.

         Approximately 2..5 hours into the race, California flipped, but with Lorrin’s canoe surfing ability, they had it righted in no time at all and they were into chasing Hawaii, who was still way north of the rumb line.  The only landmarks back then were Saddleback mountain, Hoag Hospital and the Newport Harbor High School bell tower and the compass bearing of 44°.  Hawaii got their bearings and started for the harbor entrance.  Now our landmarks are the oil platforms, Huntington stacks and hotels, Fashion Island, the Newport Coast construction, oh yeah, and GPS.

         Hawaii finished in 5 hours, and 3 minutes and California was 15 minutes behind.  A women’s exhibition was held right here in the Dunes with the 3 koa canoes.  A few of the girls were from Outrigger or the boys loaned them their shirts for the race.  As in all great race endings, a festive meal and party took place before the awards presentation.  How great it would have been to be there that first event to make the first crossing.  Wait a minute; we’d be 50 years older.  So much for those dreams.  At this year’s celebration we are honoring a few of the participants from that inaugural event.  Along with memorabilia from that event and throughout the years of the Catalina Channel Crossing, hope to see you there and bring questions for those pioneers of the past.

         We of the committee are trying to keep the emphasis on Catalina 1959 and founders.   Because after 1959 the sport spreads into 3 areas and to present an accurate account, research needs to take place or our history could end up as a lot of backroom stories.


Bud Hohl


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Re: 50 Years of Paddling in California- PART 3
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2009, 07:28PM »
You might recognize a familiar  name in the Hawaii Crew Joe Gilman. That becuse he is father of Shara Gilman  former MDOCC  secretary and women's crew paddler.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2009, 05:52AM by lindseyrichman »