Honoring Hawaii’s Ocean Legends

The eighth annual Duke Kahanamoku Challenge, formerly known as the Ala Wai Challenge, is set for this Sunday on Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village. The event, a fundraiser for Waikiki Community Center, celebrates legends of Hawaii water sports and water safety. This year’s honorees have touched the lives of thousands of people and continue to do so:


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Rosie Lum

Rosie Lum. Known in the local canoe paddling community as “Aunty Rosie,” she has spent more than 60 years of her life sharing her passion and love with Hawaii’s keiki. Lum started paddling at the age of 9 and was taught by some of Hawaii’s coaching legends: John D. Kaupiko, George Waialeale, Clement D. Pai’aina, Pat Silva and Dutchy Kino. Today, “Aunty Rosie” is considered to be a living legend herself.

“That I’m not,” laughs Lum. “I just have a passion for canoe paddling and I was lucky to have learned from those great coaches.”

Lum is one of Hawaii’s most celebrated paddlers. In 1975, she was part of two-women crews that made history by successful paddling across Moloka’i Channel. The historic day set the foundation for Na Wahine O Ke Kai. She remains active in the event by serving as one of five race directors.

Lum later worked tirelessly with the late Gardner Brown to establish the Na ‘Opio paddling program for public and private schools. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu saw that paddling was a viable sport, and she eventually coached at Kamehameha, where she led the Warriors to five state championships. She and the late Kala Kukea were instrumental in introducing kayaking to the ILH as well.

“I just absolutely love kids; they’re like sponges,” chuckles Lum, who turns 70 this year. “It’s been a wonderful journey for me, a real blessing.”

Edith Van Gieson. Van Gieson has spent more than a half-century making a difference in the lives of children on the Leeward coast. In 1947, she and husband Henry founded Leeward Kai Canoe Club.

“Our goal was to give back to the community,” says Van Gieson. “When I was young I got a scholarship from the Hawaiian Civic Club, so this is my give-back.”

The entire Van Gieson family is now giving back. When Henry passed away in 1995, her sons stepped into help. Today, it is a true family affair at Nanakuli Beach Park, where they instill cultural pride and teach good sportsmanship.

“We have more than 100 kids on the beach during the spring and the summer months,” says Van Gieson. “Honestly, the keiki keep me going. They’re enjoyable and it’s so fun to watch them.”

Ralph Goto. You’ve heard the old clich√©, “Life is a Beach.” For Ralph Goto, life really has been at the beach – for the past 32 years.

“It’s been a great ride,” says Goto, who is the administrator of the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division on Oahu.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate started his career with the city in 1981. Today, he oversees a division that employs 165 full-time water-safety officers and another 60-70 part-time guards who protect some of Oahu’s most popular and high-risk beaches. Goto also manages an operational budget of $8.9 million, and is the primary ocean safety resource for legislative, com-

munity and governmental matters. “I’m going to retire at the end of this year, time to turn over the reins to the next generation,” says the 66-year-old Goto. “Lifeguards were here before I got here and they’ll be here after I leave. I hope I left it better than when I first arrived.”