Maui Supports Paddle Imua for Special Needs Kids

Photo: Sean M. Hower.
Photo: Sean M. Hower.

Maui Supports Paddle Imua for Special Needs Kids

"É kaupé aku no i ka hoe akó mai é" means "put forward the paddle and draw it forward" in Hawaiian. And that's just what Kai Lenny, Jeremy Riggs, Andrea Moller, Connor Baxter and dozens of other paddlers did this weekend in the 2014 Paddle Imua event—move their paddles and boards to raise money so that special needs kids can attend Camp Imua later this year.

Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear
Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear

Proceeds of Paddle Imua will help fund Imua Family Services' Camp Imua, a 37-year old tradition that takes place in June at Camp Maluhia on the West Maui Mountains. For one week, over 50 special needs campers and more than 250 volunteers will gather for a week of crafts, games, swimming, horseback riding, helicopter rides, camp fire, and community. Camp Imua 2014 is scheduled for June 15 to 19.

Weeks before SUP athletes descended on the picturesque Paddle Imua 2014 course, which follows that of the famed Maliko downwind run, participants started posting video selfies on the Facebook page to generate buzz for the event. As well as featuring clips from Lenny, Moller and other paddlers, athletes from other sports joined in the viral promotion, most notably Winter Olympics gold medal winner Julia Mancuso.

Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear
Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear

It wasn't just Facebook fans that these athletes connected with, but also the very children who will benefit from their fundraising efforts. As Moller, Riggs and the rest of the athletes raced toward the crowded beach at the Hawaiian Canoe Club in Kahului, the cheers and applause from children who hope to attend Camp Imua and their families grew louder. And once the athletes crossed the finish line, some of the delighted kids presented their sporting idols with brightly colored winners' leis. To Dean Wong, executive director of Imua Family Services, this interaction is what sets Paddle Imua apart:

"The amazing success of this event comes from ocean sports athletes who mix, meet and mingle with the special needs kids who will attend Camp Imua," Wong said. "It's a hands on experience for the paddlers and a special experience for the children who see them as heroes."

Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear
Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear

The SUP riders competing in Paddle Imua 2014 certainly agreed with Wong's sentiments. Andrea Moller, who served as honorary chairperson and won her second straight title in the Women's Unlimited SUP category Saturday, said, "I think one of the benefits of Paddle Imua is that it's not just raising money, it's also bringing attention to this community of special kids and also making these kids feel like they are a part of something like any other kid. Camp Imua really allows them to have fun and excel."

Jeremy Riggs, who finished 2nd in the men's unlimited SUP category added: "I love how the event brings the community together with paddlers riding anything they want to ride and it all being for a great cause."

Indeed, it wasn’t just standup paddlers that took to the water to raise funds and awareness, but also OC-1 paddlers, prone paddlers and surf skis—a total of 153 male and female competitors. —Phil White

Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear
Photo: BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear

Here are the SUP results:

Women's 12'6
1st: Resi Stiegler
2nd: Jennifer Gladwin
3rd: Heather Hirata
Women's Unlimited
1st: Andrea Moller
2nd: Sonni Honscheid
3rd: Devin Blish
Women's 14'
1st: Kathy Shipman
2nd: Courtney Brown
3rd: Natalia Fon

Men's 12'6
1st: Connor Baxter
2nd: Evan Lawrence
3rd: Michael Funke
Men's Unlimited
1st: Livio Menelau
2nd: Jeremy Riggs
3rd: Scott Trudon

Click here for full results.

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