The 20th annual Aloha Outrigger Races and Polynesian Festival took place at the Santa Cruz Wharf on Sunday and hundreds of people came out to watch 34 crews “paddle” it out on sea for first place.
In the end, it was team Kaijin MMA/West Cliff Paddle Club with the victory and their fourth straight championship in a row. Team members included Ryan Buell, Craig Waltz, Garth Taylor, and Ryan Reber who was proud to four-peat with the same crew since day one.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Reber. “It’s an annual grudge match between us and a couple of other teams, so we’re always excited when we win.”
But it wasn’t without their custom made Mason Paddles that were built four years ago by a close friend and since then West Cliff and the paddles are undefeated in the Aloha Outrigger Race.
“They’re heavier and bigger than most paddles,” said Buell. “But then again our boat is heavier, between the four of us we’re at 870 pounds. We got a lot of weight in our boat but we got these big cool paddles to propel us.”
Joey Thomas from Santa Cruz was also in the championship race but finished in third place with team Pu In Sai. However, it wasn’t all about winning for him and for the last eight years Thomas always looks forward to this particular occasion.
“This is one of the most funnest events that I do in competition and it’s really a good camaraderie,” said Thomas. “It’s really cool to see the west side once again get first, second, and third (place).”
Just ahead of team Pu In Sai was team Baywatch in second place and last but definitely not least was team Chandler Surfboards in fourth place.
Four crews made up of kids also took part of the race in their own event that featured three teams from Canoe Camp and team Halau Na Wai Ola. Team 2 from Canoe Camp took first place, while team 1 came in second, team 3 in third, and not far behind was team Halau Na Wai Ola in fourth place.