Queen Lili’uokalani Canoe Race, the world’s largest long distance outrigger canoe race celebrates its 50 year anniversary as 2,500 paddlers from around the world gather in Kona, Hawaii to participate in this iconic race. Long distance paddling starts on Thursday, August 31 and continues through the Labor Day Weekend and culminating on Monday, September 4, 2023.

Back in 1972, internet-based email was invented, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in three straight tennis sets and the first long distance outrigger canoe race started in Kona’s Kailua Bay.

What started as a one-day training race in 1972 for the Molokai to Oahu canoe race, has grown into the world’s largest outrigger canoe race with four days of racing.

In a 1999 interview with the race founder Mary Jane Kahanamoku, she noted that this race started around her kitchen table with her husband Louis, as they talked about the training course and divisions. They prepared a proposal to present to then Kai Opua Canoe Club Board of Directors. The board readily agreed and the rest is history.

The first Queen Lili’uokalani 18-mile canoe race was for men only and attracted eight crews who paddled from Kealakekua Bay to the Kailua Pier. The following year, race organizers opened the race for women with the women’s race starting at Kailua Bay and finishing in Honaunau Bay.

In the early years and after a visit to Tahiti, the Kahanamoku’s were introduced to double-hull canoe racing and they later persuaded the Kai Opua Canoe Club to add this colorful and unique event. Two single hull canoes are lashed together to create the double hull canoes.

Today, this much loved event named Wa’a Kaulua is a weekend favorite and attracts crowds in Historic Kailua Village as crews race a total of five miles starting and ending at Kailua Pier.

More information here.