HISTORY OF LANAKILA OUTRIGGER CANOE CLUB

by Al Ching, Founder of Lanakila
 

LANAKILA was formed in 1970 by a group of 6 paddlers, Ralph Hanalei, Al Ching, Keith Keillor, Sam Ferrar, Art Hausen and Mike Jacobs. They lived within a close proximity to Redondo Beach's King Harbor. After paddling for Marina Del Rey for several years, they longed to have a club within their Harbor instead
of driving the 24 mile round trip to Marina. 

In 1969, Ralph Hanalei went to the City of Redondo to secure permission to start an Outrigger Club, but ran into the usual red tape and paper work. Meanwhile, they began recruiting paddlers and building two canoes. They purchased an old Malia hull without gunnels and manus for $100.00 which had lain half buried in the sand from an extinct club called Santa Monica. The canoe was refurbished with new gunnels and manus and named the, "Kaku" or Barracuda. Art's large backyard served as boat yard for rebuilding canoes, much to the chagrin of his parents.  The second canoe was built from the specifications of the Malia, but with marine plywood covered over ribs, instead of fiber glass. It turned to out to be a V bottomed canoe, because it was difficult to bend the plywood around the bottom of the hull. In hindsight they should have used thinner sheets of plywood. It was very fast, but also very hard to steer, because the v-bottom made the canoe track in one direction. It weighed about 450 lbs., much heavier than had been anticipated. That canoe was named the Papio, after a well-known game fish. With permission to start a club granted and the paper-work finalized, the Kaku and the Papio were blessed and launched on the south beach of Redondo Pier through the surf. With nowhere to locate their club, they trailered the canoes and the equipment from Art's house, 6 miles away to the beach and launched through the surf every day.  

The club was first known as the Lanakila Athletic Club, but later changed to Lanakila Outrigger Club and finally changed to King Harbor Outrigger Club. Today everyone "Unofficially" calls it Lanakila Outrigger Club. Launching from the beach every day was hectic and taught the crews to be efficient paddling through surf.

In 1971, new coach Ralph Hanalei asked and received permission to store the canoes inside King Harbor under the pilings of the Harbor Master's building. It was hoisted up 15 feet every day with block and tackle, which was dangerous, and time consuming, especially when the tide was very low. Occasionally, after practices the slippery hulls combined with tired hands resulted in a canoe slipping and falling. The good news was that they were finally in the harbor and away from the windy beach.  

After a year under the pilings, Al made a suggestion relocate the entire operation to a near-by empty lot. But in order to do this, he suggested that they would have to carry the canoes over a steep rampart of large boulders to reach the lot. It was met with much opposition and discussion by the club. One day after practice, without warning Al told the crews to pick up the canoe and carry it over the boulders. The paddlers argued, but Al was determined. They placed an old carpet down and two crews of barefooted men managed to haul the heavy canoe to the lot. Soon after, they began building wooden ramps and a floating dock. Lanakila had finally found a home. Today, it remains as the most unusual outrigger launching site in California. The dues were $5.00 per paddler, and included a t-shirt, but it was still too steep for so Lanakila went through the usual growing pains as with any new club, bringing up the rear of the pack.

When 1973 ended, a group of paddlers with new ideas and different ideals broke off and formed the Nahoa Outrigger Club within the harbor. About this time a group of Hawaiian college students from Kona joined the club.  One in particular, 18 years old, Jerome Kanuha persuaded the club to enter the Queen Liliuokalani Race. Sending a men and women crew to Kona, the club was treated to the most wonderful hospitality by Jerome's family, starting a life-long friendship with Jerome and Al. At the end of 1974, Ralph Hanalei had left for Hawaii along with most of the paddlers, leaving Mike Jacobs and Al as the only ones remaining from the original group.

1975 - saw new coach Al recruiting heavily at El Camino College, high schools and local residents swelling the ranks of the club. Returning to the Liliuokalani Race, they won the fiberglass division much to their surprise. A year later, Al met a novice paddler named Erin Shea and within two years they were married. 
Ron Ponciano joined the club and became assistant coach helping Al with the large club and soon began going to Kona regularly.

In the 80's two huge storms devastated the Harbor, tearing up hotels, sinking boats and sweeping cars off the parking lot. During the first storm, it was a good thing the canoes were strapped on the trailer as everyone rushed to tow it away from the rising tide. One canoe was washed away and wrapped around a telephone pole.

Several years later, with the equipment restored, a second big storm hit, but again the paddlers rushed to help and rescued the canoes. Everything else on the lot was flattened and washed into the harbor. In 1981 Lanakila entered their first Molokai Race.   

By 1983, Al was slowing down and Mike Jacobs took over as men's coach, while Al coached the women and juniors. But by the next season Bob Bice had become the men's coach.  Bob, a well-respected and a strict disciplinarian took the teams to all the major international races in California, Hawaii and Tahiti.

LANAKILA, which translates to, "Victory and/or determination", is usually one of the larger clubs in California and supports a large junior program designed to feed into the adult program.

In 1992, several major coaching changes were made. Bob Bice retired after 10 years, Josh Crayton took over the men's program, while Kim Nygaard took over the women. Josh is Al's brother-in-law, whom Al introduced to paddling at age 10.

1992 - Was a rocky year as new coaches Josh and Kim struggled with Al disagreeing on issues. It was a classic case of the new guard versus the old. By the end of the season, all three coaches had learned a valuable lesson in respecting each others ideas.

In the spring of 1993, Chantal Toporrow was appointed the new women's coach. Utilizing conference calls Al, Josh and Chantal began a once a week forum. Al now accepted fresh ideas and so began a new era of training methods, records, graphs, and goals.

1994 - Chantal retired and Jennifer Buckley became the women's coach. Jennifer and Josh worked well together and brought their programs up to the highest level the club has yet experienced. Detailed planning and disciplined workouts were their strength together. Under their leadership the club became successful and flourished.

1998 - Josh married a girl named Jane and found a new life, retiring and giving up the leadership.

Nathan Shore coached Lanakila for a year in 1999 and did well holding the men together. Without much help and many top paddlers gone he had to rebuild the program, eventually gathering enough of a team to place 2nd overall in the Catalina Race. After Catalina, the search was on for another men's coach. For the year 2000, Norman Miedl with about 13 years of experience and
who paddled with Josh in the Junior program is coaching the men. 
With the help of Andy Leitz, Norm did very well bringing back some veterans and blending them with the novices. Jennifer Buckley coached the women, while Al and son Danny and Denise Rogers, coached the Juniors. Recruiting Danny's water polo and swim teammates, Lanakila has several junior teams preparing for sprints.

Lacking a normal launch site, the club has still managed to host races nearly every year, since 1970. Concentrating on, "Service," during race days the club enlisted newspapers, T.V., City Merchants, Paramedics, Fire & Rescue, Lifeguard and the Harbor Patrol. But the explosion of clubs and more canoes, has forced Lanakila to move the race site to a nearby beach, launching through the surf. It worked for several years, but the unpredictable surf conditions had prompted SCORA to stop accepting the club's bids in hosting races.

Undeterred, the club now concentrates on annual corporate fund-raising and team building. Following a written program designed to create teamwork, managers and employees work together in order to be successful in a day long regatta against others. Working hard to establish a good relationship with the city and Harbor Patrol, the club has enjoyed many years of public acceptance and awareness.  

In the near future, the city will be renovating the entire water front and roads leading to the water. The project will include new businesses, hotels, docks and inlets making the harbor easily accessible to residents, tourists and boaters. The city has invited the club to attend meetings to discuss renovations that include harbor boating entities.      

Through the years, Lanakila has done well in the major long distance races in Hawaii and California. Although never winning Molokai, Coach Josh several times brought the men as close as 8th and set the present record for the Catalina Race in 1994. Jennifer's women usually placed in the top 10 in Molokai with a best of 4th overall.  Starting from the humble sand beach and empty lot, a few members have pursued paddling and found success.

In the 80's, one member, Carol Bower competed and won a gold medal in Olympic Rowing. Three teenagers medaled in the U.S. Kayak Nationals, Tyrone Del, Kawika Ching and brother Danny. Junior National team member Danny Ching, will be competing in his 3rd Nationals at Georgia.    

Cliff Miedl, former Junior paddler, competed in his second Olympic kayak game at Australia in 2000.  He also carried the US flag at the games, and for the 2002 Winter Olympics, was an olympic torch bearer.  At present the club is entering its 32nd season, training new personnel, grooming new coaches and as always, an enthusiastic hope for the future.  After Catalina 2000, Norman Meidl, with about 13 years of experience starting with the Junior program, was appointed the next men's coach. Unfortunately, after one season, Norm retired. But during his tenure, he managed to keep true to his goal which was, "Everyone paddles, whether elite or recreational." Much of his coaching was the ability to listen to suggestions and make everyone, from elite to novice, feel like an important part of the team. Except for the most important races, his top teams were often mixed with one or two second tier paddlers whom he rewarded for extra effort. He was a very good people manager. When away on work related trips, Norman wrote out the schedules, delegated the training to others with experience and called frequently to discuss it. His system worked well and his teams were successful.

 Women Coach Jennifer Buckley retires at end of 2000.  It had been a great coaching career and Jennifer's teams had earned respectability among other coaches, usually winning or placing among the top contenders. Jennifer's teams excelled under her guidance. She prepared well and held everyone responsible for their own initiative and hard work. Her fair, but well defined system propelled women to strive harder. She did everything she asked of others, including coaching from the sidelines while still pregnant with her first child. With her daughter Caitlin already becoming mobile, they decided it was time to retire and increase the population by another one. Jennifer and husband John had plans to move inland. During 2000, her last season, she groomed Jill Schooler, the next incoming coach. By the end of the season, Jennifer and Jill blended a core of excellent novice athletes into the top team for the coming year.

In 2001, Jill Schooler was appointed as the new women's coach. Jill began her coaching career after 13 years of paddling experience. Utilizing her experience, Jill confidently installed her own program. The first thing she did was recruit heavily for new recruits. Then she instilled a higher sense of OC1 training amongst her women. She urged the club to buy several more OC1's and soon Jill (politely) pressured her best women to participate in OC1 races during the winter. After that, it was more hard work and long hours.

The first races, her top team finished 2nd by seconds, but it didn't take long afterwards that they were winning more often than not. Internationally, she coached her team to a 3rd in Catalina and 7th overall in Molokai. She had taken only one season to establish a new club record for the women. As a new coach, Jill's excellent first season, hopefully will continue to grow in the coming years.