Posted on February 21, 2021
Hopena Pokipala was born with paddling in his blood. Born and raised in Kailua on the East side of Oahu, Hopena’s family has a rich tradition of paddling as members of the Kailua Canoe Club.
Outrigger paddling, as an activity is a historical reminder that to live in Hawai’i is to know and respect the ocean. For thousands of years, Hawaiians have explored, traveled, and raced using outrigger canoes. Today, with more than 60 canoe clubs in Hawaii, the sport of canoe racing is as strong as ever.
Hopena’s racing career stared early. He first joined the canoe club at age 7 and found success quickly, guiding his team to seven consecutive junior state championships. In addition to state titles, Hopena was a member of the first team of Juniors to complete the Pa’a ‘Eono Hoe race, a 32-mile course that starts at Papokaku, Molokai and finishes at Maunalu Bay.
While in college Hopena decided to build his own outrigger canoe to surf the waves off of his beach-front home in Lanikai.Using the Opelu model created by his uncle, master canoe builder Jay Dowsett, Hopena built his canoe and named it, Hoku Alakai (Guiding Star) as an homage to his grandmother whose nickname is Star.
Today, Hopena’s favorite place to paddle is in front of his family home at the Mokulua Islands, especially when there are waves and he can go surf. In addition to paddling and surfing big waves at Waimea, Hopena owns and operates the catering company Oysters Hawaii with his girlfriend, current Miss Hawaii Allie Chu. Working directly with the seafood market and local distributors they offer up fresh and delicious oysters for any event.