Brooklyn Boro

Hawaiian outriggers slice through Hudson River for 19th annual Liberty Challenge Race

June 22, 2015 By Cody Brooks Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The 19th annual Liberty Challenge race took place Saturday. Eagle photos by Cody Brooks

The 19th annual Liberty Challenge race was visible up close to Brooklynites on land for only a brief moment. However, the waterfront event helped illustrate the renewed passion of New Yorkers for their waterfront activities, whether in New York Harbor, the East River or the Hudson.

Originally only a canoe race, the Liberty Challenge has transformed into a festival celebrating the culture of Hawaii and the Pacific islands at large. Hawaiian Airlines decided to sponsor the event four years ago, which provided the funding necessary to make it a more ambitious event.

Outrigger canoe teams from around the world (U.S., Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Canada)  came to New York on June 20 to race each other in the Hudson and East Rivers. The event was hosted by New York Outrigger.

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Thirty-four teams braved Saturdays rain and bluster in the mens, womens and mixed divisions. Finishing first place in the main event was Newport Aquatic Center’s mens division from Newport, California. With a time of 1:45:17, it beat the second place team, Kamanu from Hawaii, by over a minute.

Starting at Pier 26 in Tribeca, the 15-mile course for the mens and womens divisions went around The Battery and up the East River to the Manhattan Bridge before U-turning to go around Governors Island, up the Hudson River to Pier 66 and finally back down to the starting line at Pier 26 in Hudson River Park. The mixed division had an 11-mile course that removed the bridges portion.

Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Hawaiian Kingdom Leon Siu was in New York to speak to the United Nations, but came by to watch the races.

“Just last year, the main stage was a large tent,” Siu said. “Now its, well, an actual stage. Its great progress.”

The festival featured Hawaiian food staples such as Poké (raw, marinated cubes of tuna with rice and seaweed), food trucks serving smoothies and ice cream and a Heineken beer tent.

On the main stage, the Hawaiian Airlines Serenaders sang local songs in Hawaiian while hula dancers performed to the rhythm and New Zealand duo Amorua sang songs in Māori. After the races, a luau of roasted pig and chicken was served during the award ceremony.

The grand prize was the opportunity to compete in 2015 at two of the largest races in Hawaii, the womens Na Wahine O Ke Kai and the mens Molokai Hoe, flights paid for courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

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