Canoe race canceled after Kawaihae Harbor, surrounding roads flooded following weekend rain

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Instead of hosting its first paddling race of the year, Kawaihae Canoe Club led a cleanup over the weekend at Kawaihae Harbor after heavy rain flooded areas and caused rockslides blocking roadways.

  • Flooding at Kawaihae Harbor on May 11, 2024. Photo credit: Hi‘ilei Kamau
  • Kawaihae Canoe Club cleans up flooding at Kawaihae Harbor on May 11, 2024 after canoe race was canceled. Photo credit: Tricia Bell
  • Flooding at Kawaihae Harbor on May 11, 2024. Photo credit: Tricia Bell
  • Flooding at Kawaihae Harbor on May 11, 2024. Photo credit: Hi‘ilei Kamau

Ninety-two crews were slated to participate in the 26th annual Long Distance race up the Kohala Coast on Saturday. However, the weekend storm caused rockslides and blocked roadways, flooded the harbor area and broke a concrete berm.

Naka Nathaniel, board member for Kawaihae Canoe Club, said this is the first time the club had to cancel a race due to flooding.

Luckily, none of the canoes were damaged as they were up and out of the way from the rising waters.


Nathaniel, who lives in Waimea, said the rain hit at midnight and again at around 3 a.m. on Saturday. The race was slated to start at 7 a.m., however, Nathaniel said it was the blocked roads that kept people from the race along with the poor water quality.

“It’s like paddling in coffee grounds,” Nathaniel said.

The club along with community members spent the day cleaning up the area. The club also fed state and county workers lunch, originally meant for racers, after they had spent all night and morning moving rocks off the impacted roads.

Kawaihae Canoe Club feeds state and county road workers after clearing roadways covered in debris following flooding on May 11, 2024. Photo credit: Naka Nathaniel

Participating clubs were unable to get to the harbor as Akoni Pule Highway and the intersection and the intersection at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway were closed due to ponding and large debris.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu reported that the windward side of the Big Island got the most rain with the Kohala Districts seeing 4-6 inches of precipitation on Friday into Saturday morning.

From Friday, gages recorded eight inches of rain north and west of Hilo.


Aside from flooding, Hawai‘i Fire Department responded to two rescues. One occurred on Friday after two women hiking on private property in an area known as Narnia got stuck on a rock when flash flooding hit.

The department’s chopper 2 was able to extract them from the area uninjured.

Firefighters responded to another rescue Saturday morning after a man and woman sleeping in a car in Kawaihae escaped to higher ground after being surrounded by a flash flood. No injuries were reported.

Meteorologists say moderate to heavy showers will continue along the Kona Coast today and clear up overnight.

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