Hui Lanakila Canoe Club (trans. Victory Club) began as a venture between four friends that were often referred to collectively as "The Four Hawaiians" in 1975 before the club was officially established in 1977. An excerpt from one of the founders, Henry Keawe Ayau, describes how the club came to be and its first koa canoe:
"Yes, in fact in 1975, Billy Mitchell, (a former member of Outrigger Canoe Club) Bob Riley, (a Non-resident member of Outrigger Canoe Club), Doug Frias (a Punahou boy) and I formed a new canoe club called Hui Lanakila. The name was given to us by John Kealoha from Maui. We wanted the experience of starting a new club. John mentioned he had an old koa canoe in his yard on Maui. We made a deal with him and got the koa canoe. Then, we talked to the late Wright Bowman and his son and we came up with the idea of a canoe building project at Kamehameha Schools. The School would put up all the funding to build the canoe, and we would help him. That’s how we got started with our koa canoe. Eventually, we named it Ka’iholo Kai. Thereafter we had to purchase fiberglass canoes for training. I went to all the hotels in Waikiki asking if they would be a charter member of our club for $1,000. One thousand dollars in return for a life-time membership, a paddle and a T-shirt. Harry Newhart, the General Manager of the International Market Place, who was also a member here, was our first charter member."
Although he served as a coach at Outrigger Canoe Club for nearly 50 years (and even earning their highest honor, "The Winged O," in 1983), Henry continued to help out Hui Lanakila for many years. He became a well-recognized and a well-respected paddler among the paddling community, often being described by friends as an expert waterman and "the perfect Hawaiian gentleman." It was with great sadness that he later passed on May 8th, 2002 after a swimming accident. He was 60 years old. However, his legacy and name continued to live on to this day, with Hui Lanakila's title long-distance race, The Henry Ayau Memorial Race, being named after him.
Leighton Look, who had been one of Hui Lanakila's original members, became a driving force for the club. He was as an excellent steersmen, shaper, coach, and board member to the club, and many would say he embodied the paddler spirit. To our first koa canoe, Ka`iholo Kai, he added Tarita, a koa canoe Leighton handcrafted himself in the late 1990's. The Tarita, named after his daughter, became known as one of the fastest koa canoes in the state and led as an example to many others that followed. "He transformed a grass-roots club into a state powerhouse," according to his brother Les Look.
He passed in August 25th, 2004 after a diving accident, leaving his many close friends and fellow members heart-broken. But Leighton, too, left behind his legacy not only with the Tarita, but with the club's newest Bradley Lightning fiberglass canoe. It was named Lehuuila No Kalawai'a, which in Hawaiian translates to "A flash of lightning for the fisherman," in his honor.
With every season, we at Hui Lanakila always remember the many hands that were a part of the club for the last 40 years. We are a canoe club that carries a lot of pride in its roots - and it resonates within our all our members. We invite you to be a part of our paddling ’ohana.