The Moloka‘i Hoe: the World’s Greatest Outrigger Canoe Race

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SolarCity’s team took 11th place in Hawaii’s Moloka‘i Hoe outrigger canoe race this year. Eleventh place. Not impressed? How difficult can anything be upon the sea in paradise, right?

Well, plenty difficult. For starters, Tahitians have long dominated the race, winning again this year, and it’s a big deal for an amateur team to finish in the top 20.

But beyond that, Moloka’i Hoe, the world’s most prestigious race of its kind, pitted 102 teams and 1,000 paddlers from around the world. It’s an arduous 40-mile trek from the island of Moloka’i across the treacherous Ka’iwi Channel to Waikiki Beach. It “tests the limits of physical and mental strength and endurance, courage, determination and teamwork, and paddlers must also battle nature’s most extreme elements,” as Hawai’i Magazine describes it.

Amen to that, says Tony Laglia, who raced in one of the five crews that SolarCity sponsored last month for his Kailua Canoe Club. Tony, our regional director for Hawai‘i, was one of SolarCity’s first installers, and helped launch local operations in 2010. “It takes a tremendous amount of dedication,” he says. “We practice six days a week and if you miss one you’re off the team. We trained really hard this year and we were really excited with the results.”

Hoe, pronounced “ho-eh,” is Hawaiian for “paddle” or “the act of paddling.” Tony and his cohorts competed in the 62nd annual Moloka‘i Hoe in a single-hulled, six-man canoe similar to those that were an integral part of early Hawaiian life. The race, always viewed by throngs at the finish line, is one of Hawai‘i’s most treasured cultural traditions. The Kailua Canoe Club is one of the biggest in Hawai‘i, with 500 members of all ages. Tony competed in the open men’s division, which comprises the most experienced competitors under age 40.

Many of Tony’s rigorous practices forged the unpredictable Ka’iwi Channel. In preparation, his team entered other contests, such as the Queen Lili’uokalani Race over Labor Day and Pailolo Challenge, also in September.

Grueling, yes, but worth it in so many ways, Tony says. “The first Hawaiians arrived on the islands by voyaging canoe, so canoe racing is a way to recognize and pay respect to the traditional Hawaiian way of life.”

It is also a way to celebrate nature. Early Hawaiians, who lived off the land, knew they had to preserve and protect it. Today, as the most fossil-fuel dependent state in the nation, Hawai‘i has made a commitment to derive 40 percent of its energy from locally generated renewable sources and improve its energy scenario another 30 percent by boosting efficiency.

Racing has also brought Tony and his wife, Cheryl, a tremendous sense of community, or “‘ohana.”

“All our friends are in the paddle club,” he says. “It’s our family in Hawai‘i.”

We here at SolarCity are proud of all the hard work—and the victories—that Tony and his colleagues achieve for us, on the job and after hours. We’re proud to say that they are part of our family.

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