In 1952, three outrigger canoes launched at Kawakiu Bay on Molokai’s west side, bound for O’ahu across more than 38-miles of open ocean. Nearly nine hours later, the canoe Kukui O Lanikaula landed on Waikīkī beach in front of the Moana Hotel. This first event started the world’s most prestigious outrigger canoe race, the Molokaʻi Hoe.
The Molokaʻi Hoe across the treacherous Molokaʻi Channel, aka Kaʻiwi Channel (“Channel of Bones”) is considered one of the most difficult in the world. The deep water (plunging 2,300 feet) is afforded no protection from other land masses. Waves often reaching eight feet can propel or obstruct forward motion in equal measure. The channel is also teaming with sealife, from jellyfish to stingrays to sharks.
With nearly constant rough sea, the race tests the limits of strength, endurance, courage, determination, and teamwork. The contest perpetuates outrigger canoeing, one of Hawaii’s most important historic cultural traditions and the official state team sport, and one of our longest-running team sporting events. Today, over 1,000 paddlers from around the world come to Hawaiʻi to compete in the highly prestigious Molokaʻi Hoe.
There are nine main channels in the Hawaiian Islands, from north to south:
- Kaulakahi Channel between Niʻihau and Kauaʻi
- Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel (or Kauai Channel) between Kauaʻi and Oʻahu
- Kaʻiwi Channel (or Moloka’i Channel) between Oʻahu and Molokaʻi
- Kalohi Channel between Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi
- Pailolo Channel between Molokaʻi and Maui
- ʻAuʻau Channel (or Maui Channel) between Maui and Lānaʻi, and protected by Molokaʻi to the north and Kahoʻolawe to the south
- Kealaikahiki Channel between Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe
- ʻAlalākeiki Channel between Kahoʻolawe and Maui
- ʻAlenuihāhā Channel between Maui and Hawaiʻi Island
What is an outrigger canoe?
Outriggers have been in use for over 3,500 years and predate the Micronesian and Polynesian expansion into the Pacific. An outrigger canoe consists of a canoe (narrow water vessel) as the main hull (the watertight portion of any boat) and an outrigger (lateral arm with float) extending from the main hull (usually on the port or left side) to provide stability. The outrigger makes it easy to travel at higher speeds and provides stability in rough seas.
The Anglo-Saxon terms hull and outrigger are known in Europe. Throughout the Pacific and the Americas, Polynesian terminology is used: “vaka” or “waka” (main hull, boat or canoe),”aka” or “iako” (support arm), and “ama” (outrigger).The boats come in many configurations: single hull with outrigger, double-hull with outrigger, double-hull (aka catamaran), double outrigger (aka trimaran), and may be equipped with sails (such as the Hōkūleʻa—a double outrigger deep sea voyaging canoe).
Outrigger canoes are propelled by one or more paddlers facing the direction of travel (opposite of a rowboat or racing shell). Each paddler uses a single-bladed paddle (as opposed to the double-bladed kayak paddle).
2023 Molokaʻi Hoe
The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (OHCRA) deeply regrets to announce the cancellation of the highly anticipated Molokai Hoe Canoe Race scheduled for October 8, 2023 due to the crisis on Maui, where fires have ravaged the island and left communities grappling with the aftermath. OHCRA believes that postponing this years Molokai Hoe is not only a responsible course of action, but also a demonstration of unity and solidarity during times of crisis.
Molokai Hoe is an event steeped in tradition, cherished by paddlers and enthusiasts alike. The decision to cancel this years race was not made lightly. The commitment to the well-being of our communities and our fellow Hawaiians takes precedence. Redirecting our efforts and resources towards aiding those affected by the fires is a testament to the values that bind us as a community.
The next race is scheduled for October 6, 2024.
2024 Molokaʻi Hoe
Unless you are a race participant, traveling to Molokaʻi is impossible. Visitors should stay away. Simply put, the small island will be at capacity with race participants, leaving no accommodations for spectators.
Spectators can head to Duke’s Beach in Waikīkī, which will be crowded but offers some possibility for enjoying the event in person. Since most of the action is out of view, the best way to get in on the race action is by viewing the broadcast or livestream. Merchandise is also available should you want a souvenir of the event.
- Race: Sunday, October 6, 2024
- Details: TBA
- How to watch: Live coverage of the Molokaʻi Hoe is broadcast on KHII | KHON2 and livestreamed on KHON2.
Merchandise on O’ahu:
Merchandise on Molokai:
More info: Molokai Hoe Canoe Race
Calendar of upcoming sporting events
Listed below are affordable sporting and recreation events on our calendar cross the Hawaiian Islands.