Several Big Island canoe paddling crews are hoping to come away with state titles on Saturday when the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association host the State Championships at Hilo Bay.
The competition will draw some 3,000 paddlers representing 60 clubs from around the state.
The highly competitive event will mark the close of the regatta season for the various clubs before the long distance season opens in two weeks.
Several Big Island crews will be looking to come away with state titles which include the Kawaihae girls 12, Puna boys 14, Kai Opua’s boys 18 and women’s open 4, and Keauhou’s mixed masters 40, 55 and 60 as well as senior men’s masters.
Kai Opua dominated the Moku O Hawaii season, racking up 234 points to claim the team title over Puna (195) and Keauhou (166).
Kai Opua has moved up to the AAAA Division this year and will compete against the state’s top canoe paddling teams.
The teams to beat are perennial powerhouse, Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui, defending state champion Lanikai and current Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association champion, Kaneohe.
Puna’s head coach, Afa Tuaolo, is cautiously optimistic about his club doing well at states. “We had a pretty good day at the island championships because we didn’t let mistakes hurt us,” he said.
About 8,000 spectators and participants are expected to be at Hilo Bay on Saturday. Opening ceremonies began at 8 a.m. with the first of 39 races to start at 9 a.m.