The Wa‘a Kiakahi festival takes place every June in Kā‘anapali, Maui, to teach people about the legacy of the Hawaiian sailing canoe. The three-day event is run by the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association (HSCA) and it features traditional ceremonies, free sailing canoe rides for anyone with the desire to jump aboard, and the opportunity to see crews in racing action.
Iokepa Nae’ole, waterman and Cultural Resource Specialist says, “The sailing canoe is how we populated the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. So, when you think about migration, if it wasn’t for the Polynesians having mastered the ability to build canoes, sail them, navigate between huge expanses of open ocean. If it wasn’t for all that, I wouldn’t be here right now. All my brothers out there, they wouldn’t be here right now.”
The sailing canoes you’ll see at the festival look a bit different than the ones Nae’ole’s ancestors would’ve used, however. Natural resources have been replaced by stronger building materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, epoxy and nylon rope. And while the boats may be sleeker and faster, the navigation methods used aboard do not incorporate modern technology.
Those in attendance also have the opportunity to board one of these vessels and experience what it’s like at sea, offering an entirely different perspective than just admiring it from the beach. Folks that turn out to the festival have a whole lot of fun on the sea and sand while learning about Hawaiian culture and tradition. It’s truly a treat for all ages.