Thursday, June 27, 2002
If the same opportunities for women today existed 20 years ago, Donna Kahakui's life might have taken a totally different course.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1998
Donna Kahakui was greeted after crossing the Kaiwi Channel. Kahakui wanted to play other sports, but few opportunities existed.
Kahakui wanted a chance
By Grace Wen
The champion paddler and marine life advocate might have opted to sprint up and down soccer fields instead of raising ocean awareness through long-distance paddling.
"If I had a chance of playing soccer and having all the role models like Mia (Hamm) out there, I could have potentially gone that way instead of paddling," Kahakui said.
"This is obviously my destiny. But I loved (soccer). That and water polo. I had friends that were playing on the men's team because they were really good. That's the only thing we could do. We didn't have a women's team in high school."
Kahakui swam during the early stage of her athletic career but was pegged for paddling after a coach saw her shoulders. She remembers the early days of paddling and marvels at how much the sport has evolved for women.
"There's a lot of really great up-and-coming paddlers for women who are beating a lot of the men," Kahakui said. "I can remember when I was in a huge competition part of my life. Guys would just look at you and (say) 'How can you beat me?' The guys would tease me and I liked that. I hope more of that can happen in the future.
"In some fields there's a lot of issues because schools are losing some male sports because of female equality. It's hard on the guys and I wish there would be a time when we come together and have all the sports.
"It's saddening to think that we have to cut out one sport vs. another because of a budgetary thing. I know a lot of people get upset but think about all the women that haven't had the opportunity."
COURTESY DONNA KAHAKUI / 1999
Donna Kahakui, shown here paddling from Maui to Oahu, said many women can compete with men in paddling. She will paddle from Haleiwa to Niihau this year.
Kahakui began her Kai Makana program in 1998, with a 78-mile paddle from Maui to Oahu. In 1999 she paddled from the Big Island to Oahu, a distance of 140 miles.
She circumnavigated Oahu, a distance of 140 miles, in 2000 and paddled down the Hudson River from West Point to the Statue of Liberty in 2001. Her last "extreme" venture will be this year from Haleiwa to Niihau, a 150-mile journey expected to take three days.