Honoring Two Legends Of The Sea

The preparation is nearly complete and soon Hokule’a will leave Hawaii for her worldwide voyage. On May 17, the double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe will leave Oahu for Hilo, where she will begin her four-year, 47,000-mile journey to 26 countries.

But before she leaves for Hawaii Island, Hokule’a will make a very special trip to Waikiki Beach. This Sunday, April 13, Hokule’a will make a grand appearance at the 29th annual Waikiki Community Center Duke Kahanamoku Beach Challenge to help honor two of Hawaii’s finest oceanmen, crewmembers Billy Richards and Kimo Lyman.


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Billy Richards aboard Hikianalia | Nathalie Walker photo

“I’m humbled, but I don’t see it as myself being honored. I see it as my whole crew being honored,” says Richards, a recent MidWeek cover subject. “I only wish every member of the crew could be there with Kimo and me. This is for all of those who sailed with us on the initial voyages and everyone who has sailed since.”

“This is very humbling,” adds Lyman. “To be recognized alongside Duke and other great watermen and women is overwhelming. There are a lot more worthy people out there who are deserving.”

Richards and Lyman have been part of Hokule’a crews since the beginning: the inaugural voyage to Tahiti in 1976. Both continue to help keep Hokule’a’s dream and legacy alive.

“I’ll be representing the crew that sailed Hokule’a to Tahiti, and Kimo will represent the crew that brought her back to Hawaii,” says Richards, who is currently president of Friends of Hokule’a Hawaii Loa and will join Hokule’a as captain on a portion of the worldwide voyage.

“The reasons have changed since we first started,” explains Richards. “Initially, it was about retracing migratory paths, and now we’re bringing attention to environmental things occurring in the world. This is a great opportunity for the older sailors to pass on their knowledge to the sailors coming up. A large portion of the group, at least 50 or 60 percent, are 30 and under.”

Lyman sailed Hokule’a on her return leg from Tahiti to Hawaii. Like Richards, Lyman also will join Hokule’a on a portion of the worldwide voyage as an instrumental navigator.

“That’s incredible,” says an excited Lyman.

“Hokule’a has been an agent of goodwill for many years, and she’s taught many people along the way. If we can share that same aloha on this journey and help different parts of the world, then we will accomplish our goals.”

The Duke Kahanamoku Beach Challenge, formerly known as the Ala Wai Challenge, once again is calling Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort on Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon home. Besides honoring Richards and Lyman, the all-day affair will feature canoe and stand-up paddleboard races as well as ancient Hawaiian makahiki games such as ‘ulu maika (koa peg sand bowling), moa pahe’e (sliding spears for accuracy), konane (Hawaiian checkers) and huki kaula (tug-of-war).

“Kimo and I are thrilled to be a part of it and share what we can, and it’s necessary so we don’t have to re-invent the wheel 100 years from now,” chuckles Richards. “Mau Piailug took the time to share his knowledge with us. No use in us keeping it to ourselves. We honor him by passing it on to the next generation.”

This year’s event also will feature some of Hawaii’s finest entertainers in Jake Shimabukuro, Henry Kapono and Darren Benitez, along with Tahitian entertainment and Hawaiian crafts and food.

Officials estimate 1,500 people will attend the Duke Kahanamoku Challenge. Proceeds from the event will support programs and services for families, children and seniors who live in, work in and visit Waikiki. Ilikai Hotel will provide parking for $5 to teams, spectators and friends of Waikiki Community Center.

“We’re all still going strong!” says Richards. “A lot of crewmembers who were a part of the early voyages are still out there, still teaching and still sailing!”