By Sam Vigil Jr.
Bankoh added a fourth jewel to its crown of ocean sports championships this past Memorial Day weekend by becoming title sponsor of the Bankoh Ho'omana'o Challenge, a sailing canoe race from Kaanapali, Maui, to Waikiki Beach, Oahu. At six years old, it's a young event compared to the 43-year-old Bankoh Molokai Hoe, but the new event shows promise, according to Vice President Pauline Worsham, Community Relations manager.
"We feel it's a natural extension of our water sports sponsorships," she says, "and I think it's only going to grow over time."
That's certainly proven true for the other three bank-sponsored championship races: Bankoh Molokai Hoe, Bankoh Na Wahine O Ke Kai and Bankoh Kayak Challenge. The bank began sponsoring the Molokai-to-Oahu men's canoe race 13 years ago, and today it's almost reached maximum growth, according to Ocean Promotion's Carol Hogan, who assists Bankoh's Corporate Communication staff with race publicity.
"We began sponsoring the Molokai Hoe because paddling is the official sport of Hawaii, and as Hawaii's bank, we're committed to preserving Hawaii's tradition and culture," Worsham says. "It's our way of giving back to the community."
Over the years, the bank added the Na Wahine O Ke Kai, the women's Molokai-to-Oahu race. Because many paddlers also kayak, the Molokai-to-Oahu Bankoh Challenge seemed a logical extension.
What benefits does Bankoh reap from sponsoring these events?
For one, the community realizes that Bankoh supports ocean sports and that the bank is committed to continuing those Hawaiian traditions, says Worsham. "Also, it reinforces our community image and benefits that state, positioning Hawaii as an international sports venue.
"Visitors come here for these events," Worsham adds. "These races are internationally publicized and promote our state. We've been able to build a lot of goodwill over the years."
While most of goodwill comes from customers, some comes from the bank's own staff members who paddle.
"It's wonderful," says Business Banking Department's Terri Pynchon. "Bankoh's support has helped the sport because it's good to have a strong corporate sponsor to promote the event."
Blair Norris, Retail Annuities, seconds that emotion: "I'm really proud of the fact that Bankoh supports the sport. They're supportive in a lot of events that mean so much to the people of this state. Bankoh is to be highly commended for its involvement."
...Accompanying sidebar... [ Top ]
By Sam Vigil Jr.
Cutting through the waves, salt spray flying in your face, hot sun beating down as six koa paddles slice the water as one - that's paddling. For many, outrigger canoe paddling represents the ultimate Hawaiian sport. It demands the sea-savvy of a surfer, the conditioning of a triathlete and the teamwork of a championship volleyball team.
Like many local companies, Bankoh boasts plenty of paddlers among its ranks. And whether they joined the sport as children or started last year, all agree on one thing: once you're in it, you're hooked.
"It's a weird sports," says novice paddler Karen Proctor, Credit Services, "because it gets in your blood. And it's very social. Besides the exercise and challenge of it, as you spend more time getting close to the other people in your club, you become really bonded with your crew."
Says Remittance Processing's Jeanne Jenkins, a 15-year veteran paddler, "If I have a bad day at work, I can go practice. Being out on the ocean is serene and peaceful, and I think of my ancestors."
Perpetuating Hawaiian culture draws some paddlers to canoeing. For example, Lahaina Branch's Greg Knue's Hawaii Canoe Club has created a summer program for kids emphasizing team-building and traditional Hawaiian skills.
But at bottom, most paddlers consider canoeing as a great way to stay in shape. Canoe clubs begin training in April for the regatta season, which stretches from late May to early August.
"We practice paddling four times a week, for an hour each day and two-and-a-half hours on the weekend," says Jenkins of her Outrigger Canoe Club team. "On our days off, we run, lift weights and use the rowing machine."
Race day, even for the shorter regattas, sends adrenaline pumping and butterflies tumbling in the stomach. "A lot of times, people practically pass out," says Steven Chun of First Federal's Accounting Department and a regatta enthusiast.
As the regatta season progresses, the races grow longer. Early August begins two months of long-distance races, culminating in the Super Bowl of paddling, the 40.8-mile Bankoh-sponsored men's and women's races across the Molokai Channel.
Transaction Services' Wes Luke has tackled the channel crossing eight or 10 times - he forgets exactly - in both canoe and kayak. "The race is a lot of fun - lining up with world-class paddlers," he says. "Training and conditioning has a lot to do with your success, but luck does, too."
Adds Retail Annuities' Blair Norris, "You can't help the nervous energy - it's electric. Last year we had over 100 boats, which was a spectacle itself - all the canoes lined up, battling for position, with the escort boats behind them and helicopters overhead."
During the five-to-seven-hour paddle, crews try to maintain a fast pace, despite rough conditions and having to change paddlers periodically. Finally, after long hours at sea, that magic moment - the canoe's prow cuts the finish line.
"You're a champion when you finish, and that first beer is like heaven," says Jenkins.
...Accompanying photo captions... [ Top ]
Bank of Hawaii added the Bankoh Ho'omana'o Challenge, a sailing canoe race from Maui to Oahu, to its Hawaiian water sports portfolio of events this year. The bank's sponsorship of such events helps perpetuate the native Hawaiian culture. (Head-on shot of crew paddling outrigger sailing canoe.)
Karen Proctor paddles for Lokahi Canoe Club. (side shot of Karen paddling.)
Bankoh's Wes Luke coaches these high school students in the art of kayaking on the Ala Wai Canal. (Head-on shot of Wes and students lined up side-by-side in the water on their kayaks.)
At a May regatta in Kihei, Maui staffers Joanne Cavan, a novice paddler, and Greg Knue paddle for the Hawaii Canoe Club. (Head-and-shoulders shot of Joanne and Greg with a canoe.)
Jeanne Jenkins, a longtime paddler, puts bad days behind her when she gets into an outrigger canoe with her Outrigger Canoe Club. (Shot of Jeanne paddling in canoe.)