Paddle sports are a great way to get active and scope out the scenery while traveling. And those who take to the water regularly know that there’s also a sense of ‘ohana (family) that forms among participants worldwide. Even newbies can feel a part of this group by joining a spirited paddling celebration. 

Categories for SUP competitors range from Elite Open (open-age gender groups) to Recreational Open (division age groups) to Recreational Under 14’ (the board must be 14 feet or under). Ocean canoe competitors are divided in much the same way, however they have options for OC1 (one-person canoe) and OC2 (two-person canoe).

 Still, you don’t have to be an elite competitor to enjoy the celebration, because “celebration” is exactly what the word Ho’olaula’a means. While the annual gathering brings together some of the finest SUP, OC1 and OC2 paddlers, it also features family-friendly cultural activities like a lu’au, live music, and Hawaiian games at Kanaha Beach Park, the setting for the event. 

For those who want to get their feet wet, without committing to the entire downwinder, the Ho’olaule’a offers an ‘Ohana Fun Paddle—a non-timed, non-competitive three-mile event. For first-timers and paddlers with little open-water experience, the Fun Paddle is a chance to experience what a downwinder is all about without getting in over your head. Fun Paddle participants can use any human-powered ocean craft, which includes, kayaks, surfskis, SUPs, prone paddleboards, and outrigger canoes.

 The Ho’olaule’a also includes a demo day, where attendees can test out the latest stand-up paddle boards from a handful of board manufacturers. If you’ve been thinking of getting your own, here’s a great way to try out boards and see how they perform, before you get your wallet out to commit to one.

Celebrating and showing gratitude for our ability to enjoy the ocean is what the OluKai Ho’olaule’a is about, and a large part the celebration gives thanks to the beneficiaries of the Ama OluKai Foundation. The foundation partners with Hawaiian-based organizations that help preserve ocean as well as land, maintain Hawaiian culture and serve the community, such as ‘Imaloa, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, Maui Cultural Lands, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Na Kama Kai, and Na Kalai Wa’a.

In short? Mark your calendar for the Eighth-Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a: It’s a feel-good, thrilling event that will help you experience Hawaii more deeply.

The OluKai Ho’olaule’a
Maui, HI
April 29 – May 1, 2016