This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
July 28, 2017
MK: Good morning. Today is Friday July 28, 2017. We’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m Marilyn Kali (MK) a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is to do oral histories of long time members. Today it is my pleasure to be talking to Steven Scott (SJS). Good morning Steve.
SJS: Good morning.
MK: Could you tell us as little bit about yourself; when and where you were born?
SJS: Actually I was born here in Honolulu very many years ago, 1944 February 14th and I’ve lived here ever since then.
MK: What are your parent’s names?
SJS: Elmer Scott and Jean Scott.
MK: Do you have any siblings?
SJS: I have one sister Joan Andersen.
MK: She is also a member of the Club?
SJS: She is a member of the Club along with her son Jon Andersen so that family.
MK: They’ve got more generations down below them now.
SJS: They do. Yes they do.
MK: Where did you go to school?
SJS: Went to school at Punahou and then after graduating from there went back east to Rutgers University in New Jersey.
MK: When you were at Punahou were you involved in any sports?
SJS: I actually did two sports; one was crew and I did that from sophomore year to senior year. That’s when we started off, and they had the old boats and by the time my senior year we were in fours which were a lot better than the original ones. The original ones go back to I think the Territory, early Territory days when they used to crew in the Honolulu Harbor.
MK: That’s right.
SJS: I did crew and then also did volleyball in sophomore, excuse me junior and senior year.
MK: When you were crewing you had fours?
SJS: There was, it started off with the original boat which was six paddlers or six crew people and then we went into the fours where there were four of us in a crew.
MK: Where did you practice?
SJS: The Ala Wai. That’s when it was clean.
MK: Were these the old barges that they had from up in the Honolulu Harbor days?
SJS: Yes the original old barge and the coach back then was actually one of my classmates Wayne Williams, his father, and then there was Pops Waialeale.
MK: Wow. Was that, an interscholastic sport?
SJS: Interscholastic yes, that’s when you had private and public schools. Punahou and Iolani were the private schools and then I think you had McKinley and one other school that, a public school that also had crew.
MK: You also mentioned that you played volleyball.
SJS: Played volleyball on the Punahou team.
MK: Did they have successful teams back in those days?
SJS: Not like they have today because it was relatively new and I was a setter my senior year on the team. We actually ended up coming in second to a, who was it, Farrington I think it was.
MK: That’s when the public schools and private schools were in the same league.
MK: You mentioned you went to Rutgers to college; did you have any sports involvement there?
SJS: I actually started out in crew; this is when they had the light weight crew.
MK: What was the light weight under one hundred fifty pounds?
SJS: Light, I think was one-hundred sixty-five pounds, so I was in the light weight crew. Went through the first semester and we rowed on the Raritan River. On the first practice days we went down there to practice early in the morning and we actually had to break ice close to the shore to put the shell in to get it out there. I thought, “I’m a boy from Hawaii I don’t relate to breaking ice to get on the river to row.” I stopped then and then eventually in my sophomore year myself and another roommate, classmate started the rugby club at Rutgers.
MK: Had you played before?
MK: Something brand new.
SJS: Something brand new but he and I had friends who did play at Princeton so we decided to start the club. He was a junior and I was a sophomore so we started the rugby club at Rutgers.
MK: Is it still going today?
SJS: It is still going. There is a Rutgers Rugby Club yes.
MK: Is it an intercollegiate sport now or is it still just a club sport?
SJS: No, it’s more of a club sport but there are some very serious clubs both on the East Coast and West Coast. Cal Berkeley has one of the better clubs on the West Coast and then the East Coast has quite a few, it’s all connected to universities though.
MK: You continued playing rugby when you came back to Hawaii?
SJS: I came back in 1968 and started playing, well I think in the fall of ’68 is when I joined the Harlequins. And then from ‘68 or ‘69, ‘70, ‘71, ’72, I was the coach and the captain and the president of the Hawaii Harlequins Rugby Club.
MK: Who did they play back in those days?
SJS: A lot of local teams, there was a Samoan team, Tongan team, University of Hawaii team, a team out at BYU. BYU was very good and that was always a good match between us and BYU.
MK: Were any other members on the rugby team?
SJS: I recruited John Finney, Bernie Bays, Bob Harrison, Rick Humphreys those are some of the ones that were members of the Outrigger.
MK: Fun and they played for a long time as you did.
SJS: I played for total from college to when I finally quit for about 14 years.
MK: You enjoyed the sport; it’s pretty rough isn’t it?
SJS: I love the sport. The great thing about rugby is that you can only tackle the person that has the ball; you don’t have to worry about getting blocked, you don’t have to worry about someone undercutting you leg wise. I did have injuries but they were manageable.
MK: After you graduated from college did you come back to Hawaii again?
SJS: I traveled for about six months and then came back to Hawaii and started working at my parent’s company which is Scott Hawaii, so I went right into it.
MK: What does Scott Hawaii do?
SJS: We make slippers and for a while there we made body boards and swim fins but that was for about four years, five years. Overall it’s just been slippers.
MK: Rubber slippers.
SJS: Rubber, leather higher quality slippers.
MK: Were your parents members of the Club?
SJS: No they weren’t, my sister was but I wasn’t, my parents weren’t.
MK: How did you come about joining?
SJS: I think it was high school years and I just I was doing a lot of surfing at the time and my sister was a member, so I guess a natural progression of getting to the Club back then because it was center of Waikiki and that was a great place to be.
MK: Where the action was.
SJS: That’s true.
MK: Do you remember who your sponsor was?
MK: Well you joined when you were fourteen and as you mentioned the Club was still down in Waikiki back then. What do you remember about the old Club?
SJS: There are a lot of memories that go back to I think it being in the center of Waikiki. It had at that time a whole, a very relaxed feel to it, it was old school. I think the membership was, had a lot of characters. I remember Auntie Eva (Pomroy) and who was it (Malia Lutz)? There was another girl at the front desk who was always there, but they were just always so welcoming. There used to be one guy Doc Emerson who was just classic, he would do things that just made you laugh. There was, it was just a fun time and it was a good place. It wasn’t as up-tight as this place is right now.
MK: Did you ever get to know Duke Kahanamoku?
SJS: I only met him. I didn’t get to know him. Put it this way, he was old and I have to say the best party I’ve ever been to was at this Club when he died and they had a celebration of his life. It was the best party I’ve ever been to.
MK: What was it like growing up at the old Club; you were a teenager?
SJS: Well like, my friends were the likes of Nat Norfleet, Paul MacLaughlin, Mike Lemes they were a little older than I was but we would just sit … At one point in time I think this is one July 4th there was the junior locker room and that was off of the baby court. The morning of July 4th we had the lockers completely stocked with beer even though we were underage at the time. We had a, we called it the junior Hau Terrace but it progressed from there to actually going out to the Hau Terrace and sitting down for a while after the races and being a part of it. You could do that back then, now I wouldn’t advise it. Again it was just far more relaxed and I think, just being in Waikiki, in the center of Waikiki it just it had a whole different vibe than what this Club has now.
MK: Well the movie theater was practically across the street?
SJS: It was but you had the old International Market Place and the one thing that the Outrigger didn’t have was parking so you were always parking across and you usually walking through the International Market Place to get to the Outrigger.
MK: Did you have cars or did you have to catch the bus to get there?
SJS: I probably rode the bus sometimes but mostly either parents would drop us off or we would get a ride there somehow. Then later on in high school more junior, senior years I had a car.
MK: I’ve heard from some of your contemporaries that when they were kids their parents just dropped them off at …
SJS: In the front.
MK: … of the Club and they would be there all day and …
SJS: That’s true.
MK: … they’d get picked up in time for dinner.
SJS: That’s true.
MK: What did you guys do all day?
SJS: Surfed, played volleyball, talked, listened to stories of older people, it was very social. Like I said it was just a good time to be down there in Waikiki and you could … Being with the Club and having the access to obviously the waves right there in Waikiki was fantastic. It was just a good place.
MK: You surfed a lot?
SJS: I did surf a lot.
MK: Were there surfing contests back then or was it just for fun?
SJS: It was for the most part just for fun. They started (contests) probably my junior, senior year at Punahou they started running a contest at Makaha and that was …
MK: Did you ever enter?
SJS: I did in the junior (division), I actually come in fifth in the junior category.
MK: I think that was probably the first big surfing contest that there was.
SJS: It was.
MK: The Club didn’t have a surfing contest back in those days.
MK: What were your favorite surfing spots?
SJS: Well growing up in Waikiki it was Threes or Canoes or Queens. And then junior and senior year I spent a lot of time actually down right in front of here because I was a good friend of Ronny Tongg. We went out in front of his place which was at that time called Tonggs and surfed a lot there.
MK: You were down here before the Club moved.
MK: You weren’t too concerned when they actually moved here; you knew that there was a good surf spot.
SJS: I already knew the spots yes.
MK: Do you still surf?
SJS: No. I gave that up unfortunately a lot of years ago when I started … I was playing rugby, paddling, had family and something had to give so.
MK: Have you done stand up paddling at all?
SJS: No, I don’t understand that. If I would go on the water I’d be surfing not stand up.
MK: How did you get involved in canoe racing?
SJS: Actually after joining I think it was when I was fifteen originally I steered the novice crew and started then. Then from after that year I got in with the age group and that was in sixteens and seventeens so paddled at that time with the seventeens I think that was last year.
MK: Who taught you to steer?
SJS: My first coach actually was Rabbit Kekai and that’s when we would start off in front of the Outrigger, paddle down to Ala Wai and then come back. We used to train in the Ala Wai but the canoes had to be paddled down there and that’s also when we would paddle down in the Koa canoes and not fiberglass. The Kakina had an accident, with Butch Ledford paddling down or paddling back or paddling down I forgot which, but they got caught by a wave and that’s when the Kakina broke up and had to be reconstructed.
MK: He recalled that he never wanted to go back on the beach again.
SJS: No, that was a biggie.
MK: Were you in the canoe?
SJS: No. He was younger; I was a lot older than he was.
MK: Rabbit was your first coach?
MK: What was he like as a coach?
SJS: Quiet, but he was good in terms of just teaching me how to steer, the basics of it. I was pretty much self taught; he wasn’t there all the time.
MK: Why steer instead of sitting in one of the other seats?
SJS: It’s easier. I like being in control.
MK: Okay. What kind of training did you have back in those days, what was practice like for a kid’s crew?
SJS: It was really just, again we would paddle with different crews. We’d paddle from the Outrigger down the Ala Wai. You’d train in the Ala Wai there right across where the Convention Center is now, we didn’t really go up too far in the Ala Wai but we used to train between the bridges.
MK: The straight aways.
SJS: It was more sprints but you had a good practice going from the Club down or coming back, bringing the canoes back.
MK: Did all the kids paddle back in those days? Was it just an expected thing?
SJS: No, I don’t think all the kids paddled back then, again you didn’t have as many crews. I wish they would go back to that format. You didn’t need that many individuals to actually paddle. Right now you need hundreds of paddlers to fill all the crews.
MK: When you would go down for practice how many boats would you take?
SJS: I remember just two going down. Again, and because we didn’t have fiberglass canoes, so you were really going down in the Koa canoes so I just remember two.
MK: Just the Leilani and Kakina or were there other practice canoes?
SJS: There was another canoe that we used to use I don’t remember what it was. I remember the Kakina and Leilani and there was one more.
MK: Where were the races in those days, were there very many races?
SJS: No, you had your traditional races at Kailua Beach, we always had July 4th. I really don’t remember all the venues that we used to use back then, but they were the traditional ones. We had Waimanalo. I don’t think we had Nanakuli back then, so it was …
MK: You are saying it’s several, there were three or four.
SJS: Three or four and then they had, they didn’t really have states back then but they had …
MK: Territorial championships.
SJS: … Territorial race yes.
MK: You won the state championship when you were on the Boys 17.
SJS: Yes good crew.
MK: Do you remember who was in it?
SJS: That’s when we had Pat Spencer, Donny Cagle, myself and I really don’t remember the other paddlers.
MK: It was a good crew.
SJS: Yes, we had a good time.
MK: You came back after college in ’68 and you won junior men?
SJS: I paddled during the summers when I would come back, so did freshman and then in ’68 that’s when I missed the ’67 season because I was traveling, but ’68 came back and that’s when I started steering the junior crew.
MK: Then you were a part of the Super Sophomore team?
SJS: That was good times.
MK: You guys won just about everything back in those days.
SJS: We didn’t start off winning. I think our first race was in Kailua and we were dead last and we went from there to winning in ’75. Our mentor back then in the canoe was Nat Norfleet. He was always worth a few laughs. We just developed and unfortunately for the rest of the clubs we really became a very, very good crew. As a matter of fact I think it was at one race in Kailua I think the first race we ended up the last hundred yards doing the midge. When we all dropped down off the seats and were paddling on the bottom of the canoe, we were so far ahead we paddled on the bottom of the canoe and finished the last fifty yards or so on the bottom it was … Then we were told, “Don’t do that again.”
MK: That was kind of rubbing it in.
SJS: Yes, we were that far ahead and we were very, very good.
MK: You won state championships in ’78 and ’79 as the sophomores that was quite a crew.
SJS: Yes, in ’76 actually we were world champs. That’s when they had the world championships in Pearl Harbor. We went out there and I was with Jon Sutherland, Geoff Avery, Nat Norfleet, Tony Crabb and we were just pretty good. We actually won our age division so we called ourselves world champs.
MK: What was the world championships I’m not familiar with that?
SJS: They just billed it as a, it was 1976 and obviously celebrating …
SJS: Yeah, so they had a race at Pearl Harbor they set up course there so we won the race that year.
MK: Were there other people from other countries or was it …
MK: It was just you, just the usual.
SJS: Yeah, just Hawaii clubs.
MK: Okay well that’s a nice thing to have won a world championship.
MK: Who was your coach back when you are in a sophomore?
SJS: I was.
MK: You were the paddler/coach?
SJS: Yes, I was steering and coaching.
MK: How did that start? How did you start coaching?
SJS: Back then the Club didn’t have a lot of coaches for the different crews, so you were kind of on your own and it worked out for us. The crew back then was just very focused. We enjoyed paddling with each other, spent the time to develop a stroke or whatever that worked for us and like I said we just had some really good people that …
MK: You coached yourselves basically.
MK: Did we have head coaches back then?
SJS: Yes, but they kind of left us alone. We were pretty cocky back then.
MK: Well when you are winning I guess you can afford to be.
SJS: We won everything. In ’79 we actually went over to Kauai for a race there in Hanalei. They had an exhibition that went down to Kalalau and back and they had some regatta type distances. We went over there as a crew and represented the Outrigger.
MK: Was that your intro to distance racing?
SJS: Well actually that was in ’79, we’d already done distance in ’78. I didn’t really start doing distance until ’78 because at that time the rugby season was the same time as the distance season. I was playing rugby and I would paddle during the summer, but then when it came to distance I was starting to play rugby. It wasn’t until ’78 that I actually, that was the first year for distance.
MK: Did you like distance?
SJS: I did. Again I think it’s just a new dimension you go from paddling in circles to long distance. You don’t have to make a lot of turns you just have to keep the boat straight and know where you are going.
MK: Have a steersman who knows where he is going?
SJS: That’s unusual.
MK: You were that steersman.
SJS: That’s true.
MK: Then in ’79 you guys won Molokai.
SJS: Yes. It started off, well actually the nucleus started in ’78 with the sophomore crew and then in ’79 I became the head coach for the men’s distance and obviously we used the nucleus four of us to form the first crew.
MK: Who were those four again?
SJS: There was myself, Bill Bright, Murray Hixson and Dale Hope and then the other two Mike Mason and Jack Feher they paddled on the second crew.
MK: They did so well. What was it like to be the head coach for the first time and win your first Molokai that was, must have been a pretty good feeling?
SJS: It was kind of overwhelming but a tremendous sense of relief when you pass by the Club and go through Waikiki knowing that you are ahead. That was a tough race. Fortunately I had good support on the escort boat with, as I said, Marshall Rosa and Mark Buck and everybody helped out but we had a good crew.
MK: They did the change chart for you, managed the crews?
SJS: They managed the, as I showed you with the books, I had the change chart all filled out. They just came on race day and they plugged in the names and seats, they put that together.
MK: Speaking of books you have a big pile of books one for each year you said?
SJS: I do.
MK: What’s in those books?
SJS: It’s just a record of everything that during that particular season of every practice day what we did at different times, different combinations of paddlers and it goes from Regatta Season through distance so each practice each week pretty much tells me what people have done practice wise. From there you make the crews and then you generate change charts for distance and put it all together.
MK: Well something must have worked because you are considered the most successful canoe racing coach that we’ve ever had and you won seven Molokai; six men and one women and the Club won nine straight HCRA championships while you were our head coach.
SJS: Well I was never a head coach.
MK: You were men’s coach.
SJS: I would not want to be the head coach that’s just …There you have to be too political whereas if I just coached the men or the women I could determine what happened with that program and set the direction.
MK: How many years total do you think you coached starting in what, 1980?
SJS: Well I started actually in 1978 so probably twenty-five to thirty.
MK: You must have loved what you were doing.
SJS: I enjoyed it. I think it was mainly because the crews that I coached. Mostly giving credit to them, we were successful which makes coaching a lot easier. I was blessed in many respects to have both men and women that at that time who were pretty dedicated to excel. I think the other thing is back then we didn’t have the one- man canoes and I think that has been the demise of having crews that would stick together and paddle together and it becomes more individual. Whereas back then up until the mid-90s I think it was more just people paddling together, learning how to paddle together.
When you have one-man canoes you tend to become more individualistic and you think that is going to get you across the finish line first. That doesn’t always work together because, especially in distance, it takes nine people and you need to spend a lot of time in the boat together to learn all the permutations of the combinations that you have to go through in a distance race. In any distance race it takes you a little over two hours to get back to your starting lineup.If you have a real good six it takes you literally two to two and a half hours to get back to that starting combination.
In between the starting crew and when you get back to it you have to have combinations that speed-wise don’t drop off that much or if anything they get better. It just takes you a long time and just spends … Like I said these books I would go through and everything is timed, so I know exactly what different combinations will do and you’ve got to figure out who goes in the different seats to make that a good change chart.
MK: How many hours a week or a month do you think you put into coaching?
SJS: I think one time I figured out for a Regatta and distance season it’s probably close to, if you include races and the like, it’s probably six to seven hundred hours for a season.
MK: That’s a tremendous amount of time. Well you know you had mentioned that practices and people now doing their practices in a one-man. What were practices like when you were coaching?
SJS: Initially we spent a lot of time in the Ala Wai and we would do double hulls just to get people back into learning how to paddle together, doing the same thing at the same time. I think this goes back to actually my being a part of crew where it’s very precise. You have to enter and exit the same time because the shell itself it’s very tippy and if you have anything that is slightly off it’s going to one, make the boat go slower but also you are just not going to get as much in the way of performance out of the crew as you possibly can. I think it is very important that everyone has to be doing the exact same thing at the same time.
Paddling is really just a function of physics. If you take a look at it, it’s you have the paddle which is a lever, and then you have your bottom hand which is the fulcrum, and then you have the resistance on the blade, and you have equal opposite with the top arm, top shoulder, and it’s just applying that. It’s just trying to find the most efficient way to get the blade moving back or the canoe moving forward.
MK: Does the shape of the paddle make a difference?
SJS: I think the surface area makes a difference. There is some; when I first started off it was more the oval shape of the blade and you didn’t have T-tops and the way you paddle was a lot different. Once you started having the T-top and then you went more to the tear drop shape, but it just comes down to surface area on the blade and there is a fine line between when you paddle with the blade either going through the water or pulling the canoe forward. Ideally you want to have the blade pulling the canoe forward and there is very little slippage on the blade. If your blade is slipping through the water and you get these large whirl pools you are very inefficient because all the energy is bypassing the blade. Theoretically you want the blade to stay in place and you are actually moving the canoe over that point where you put the blade in the water.
MK: Does the style of stroke make a difference?
SJS: I think there are some basics that need to be followed because of just the geometry of, and the physics of equal opposite, and there are certain things that you have to have in place. The other is if you want to use the larger muscle groups and not the smaller, you want shoulders not biceps and anything like that you want to use your upper back, use leverage from your legs. The main thing is to have everyone doing the exact same thing, so the power is at the entry and not at the release. It’s more just having everyone in sync and doing the same thing and understanding what you should be doing from entry to exit to the recovery.
The one thing that has really, I think, I don’t know if they use it that much anymore, but we used to spend a lot of time in the trainer and that’s where you can really see what people are doing and you can have other paddlers on the sideline and you can point out to them what’s right and hopefully they can visualize. Also it’s just muscle memory, you are trying to … Overtime you are trying to teach people and train people to do certain things at certain times and they just have to have that muscle memory so they don’t think about the stroke it just becomes automatic.
MK: Did you train year round like the guys are doing now or was there a paddling season?
SJS: No, I think that’s one of the other problems. My program always revolved around twelve weeks. It takes twelve weeks to prepare someone to compete at a certain level, so you would start off in April and you would end up with the men in the first week in October. In that time you would have two twelve week schedules of training and we just tried to work around that.
I think in some respect it’s like anything else, people would stay in shape but I think it’s better that they don’t paddle all year round because mentally it just becomes a drag. You want to have everyone in that canoe excited to be there and not drudgery. I think that’s one of the problems that you have today is that there is so much paddling almost year around, I see that in other sports and I think mentally paddlers just get fatigued and if you have a family that becomes a problem too.
MK: Does muscle memory continue? I mean can you pick it up from one season to the next or is it something you have to relearn every …
SJS: We used to talk about that especially with the crews in the ’86, ’87, ’88 years. I was fortunate that I had a nucleus of at least six paddlers that would transition from year to year and there were always one or two that would come in and fill in. It took us a while to get back into it. You would think that you could just jump back in, but from October to April there is a lot of time that goes by and you just have to learn how to paddle almost all over again together. Obviously the transition time was shorter than learning it for the first time, but you still had to get back into it.
That’s the other thing too, with one-mans. Sitting at water level is a lot different than when you are sitting in a six-man canoe. In a six-man canoe you are using your legs, you are using your back more, whereas in a one-man canoe you are sitting in the same level as the water and you just paddle differently. The other thing too is paddling a six-man canoe, I wish we could always go over. I mean forget these four-hundred pound canoes, I would much rather get in the two-hundred pound canoes and learn how, because paddling a six-man canoe with four hundred pounds is painful. It’s just when you first start off; your muscles aren’t ready, your body is not ready, so you have to break into it gradually.
MK: Did you cross train or was it just all in the water, paddling in the water?
SJS: At that time we did more cross training whether it be running or some lifting, but it wasn’t … We tried to let the muscles rest, put it that way, that you use in paddling. Cross training means you do other things, so that’s the one problem I that think we have today. You have people doing a lot of one-man and then they jump in a canoe but it’s always basically the same muscles and they don’t … You got to have that cross training. The cardiovascular you can do that in other ways it doesn’t have to be the canoeing, the paddling motion.
MK: Did you use the weight room or did they run or what did they do?
SJS: I was pretty much, I would set up a … Well I gave them a weight program to follow but a lot of them did it on their own, they used some of the exercises I gave them but they would do it on their own.
MK: Well you had this nucleus, as you say, of half a dozen paddlers that came back year after year, how did you motivate them?
SJS: Well that was the one great thing in the ’86, ’87, ’88 time frame. They were all very competitive and they were, but they enjoyed paddling together I think that was the main thing. They had a sense of accomplishment and they also had a sense of a challenge, just as probably the most exciting year was ’79 when that was a combination of the Super Sophs and my winning the Molokai for the first time. Then the next was in ’86 and at that time the Tahitians were prohibitive favorites, Tahiti was betting big time on the Tahitian crews.
Eighty-six was probably one of the funnest years in terms of winning the Molokai race but it really started, that was when Dennis Conner was doing the America’s Cup and they were training here. He gave us this solution that you could put on the bottom of a hull that I guess reduced friction. I just remember going over to Molokai and we actually prepped the canoe up at Kalua Koi and then brought it down where we rigged it.
This is the Saturday before the race the following day and when I put the crew into the canoe, I just remember Mark Rigg, they went out, they paddled just across Hale O Lono and came back. He got out of the canoe and he had a grin from here to here because the canoe felt so right. They all got out of the canoe and they were feeling the bottom of the boat because it was so slippery and you just kind of knew then that we were going to be able to do well. Fortunately the Tahitians followed us, we were side by side for a while but after about forty-five minutes and about three or four changes we broke away them and then they just disappeared and then we won the race. It was just that excitement of getting ready or prepping and then the crew getting into the canoe and they knew that what they had was perfect for the next day.
MK: For that day.
MK: Which canoe was that that you were using?
SJS: That was the Manu’ula that was a fiberglass canoe.
MK: Tommy Conner’s Canoe?
MK: He had built that to counteract the Tahitians?
SJS: Well, this was not the original Manu’ula; this was after he had to alter it. It was the correct version put that way according to HCRA standards right. Yes, he going back to ‘76 that’s when he took a mold off of their winning canoe and then made one, it developed so it was a Manu’ula in ‘86.
MK: Is there a difference between using Koa and a fiberglass canoe in the Molokai race?
SJS: If there is I think it’s more mental but I think there is. I have to say that was another proud moment in coaching was in 1990 when we actually won the Molokai in the Kaoloa which was the last time a Koa canoe actually won Molokai. I think it’s more just the whole design because the next year we used the Kaoloa and ’91 and we were winning the race but then the conditions changed and the Kaoloa doesn’t do well with the cross wind.
Tommy Conner who was coaching, I mean not coaching but steering at that time, he just kept going more and more north because he wanted to get the wind more behind us or quartering us rather than directly at our side. I think that it’s not so much wood versus fiberglass, I think is more just the whole shape that has a lot to do with how the canoes work.
MK: Well, clubs aren’t using Koas very much anymore?
SJS: Too expensive.
MK: They are afraid they’ll be damaged.
SJS: Yeah, wasn’t the Outrigger canoe damaged in ’66?
SJS: The Outrigger is fortunate that we have multiple Koa canoes, but most clubs they don’t have that option. They have one Koa canoe or one good Koa canoe and they don’t want to obviously risk damaging it or destroying it. Fortunately I think the Outrigger has that option but it’s, that’s why you only see two or three at a time in the Molokai race.
MK: Do you think a Koa can win again?
SJS: I think a Koa can win. Like I said it comes down more to the shape of the canoe and not the materials it’s made of. It has to do with the dynamics of how it’s shaped.
MK: How much is the paddlers?
SJS: I would say the paddlers are ninety percent, the canoe is ten percent but unfortunately that ninety percent is affected by what they think of the canoe so all of a sudden now you have the crew thinking that, “Well, this is a fantastic boat or this sucks,” and it affects you mentally. A lot of it is, but that it’s knowing when you get in the canoe that that canoe is right for you and that only comes through practice and a lot of hours of paddling in that canoe.
MK: What was the worst Molokai race you guys were ever in?
SJS: The worst one was ‘82 and actually started off, we were winning the race, but about two hours into the race we tore the zipper in number two seat. We were in first and we held on, we tried to jury rig it, but it was up in two seat so it was hard to do, but we ended up coming in third. That was the most disappointing mainly because of equipment. It’s always, I think that’s one part of the Molokai race that makes is so interesting is that, there is skill, there is canoe, there is luck and then things that, intangibles that often times you have to overcome and that’s was one of the things that we just couldn’t overcome and ended up coming in third.
MK: Was it a defective zipper?
SJS: No, the zipper just broke, it was a rough channel.
MK: Somebody getting in or out.
SJS: No, this was just … I don’t remember exactly why it happened but it was a rough channel and just all of a sudden I think it was Mike Clifford who was sitting in the two seat, and he is looking around and no way to close it up and we just kept on taking on water so we spent a lot of time bailing.
MK: Did you, when you were coaching did you have training tables during those good years when we were winning everything?
SJS: That was the best part, especially in the ‘70s into the early ‘80’s. During distance season we would have two or three meals a week just during distance season. Usually for maybe the last six weeks or so. It wasn’t for the entire time and then that disappeared to where it only came down to one meal at the very end, but I think that was really a help. I think it helped develop the crew, the camaraderie, the closeness and I think all parts of that make a big difference when you are in the especially tough races.
MK: The Club often was sending crews to the mainland to compete or other islands, how does that help a crew be competitive?
SJS: Again this gets back to crews just having common experiences and enjoying each other. With the men we always went up to and the women too we would go up to Catalina. That was a great race one, because its different conditions obviously than what we have here, but I think they learn to work together, they develop the bond that really makes you, when things get tough to not give up, to paddle harder. We were fortunate both men and women to win Catalina Race. We always had our nemesis Imua at that time for the men and obviously for the women, Offshore, but we were able to win both. At least my crews were able to win both the men’s and women’s a couple of times each.
MK: I don’t think we are competing in Catalina anymore I haven’t …
SJS: That’s a big mistake. It’s expensive but I think it’s also, I think it’s an enticement to the paddlers to be a part of a program that actually does that. I would advocate it’s an expense well worth it if your goal is to develop good crews and especially compete in Molokai; Catalina is a definite stepping stone that I think is worth the cost.
MK: I’ve seen we’ve gone to Australia.
SJS: The first crew that went down there was after ‘86 the men’s crew and we were actually invited down there by Keith and hosted for the first Hamilton Island that we went to.
MK: They are not having Hamilton Island races anymore?
SJS: No, that’s a thing of the past.
MK: Last year our crews went to Japan?
SJS: Yeah, there is Japan, there is Hong Kong, there is New York those are kind of … I don’t think they have the same competition, I don’t think they have the same competitive challenges.
MK: How different is it coaching women’s crews than men’s?
SJS: I didn’t find it very different because I treated them all the same. There is that one great line in, I forget what the name in the movie is (A League of Their Own), but when Tom Hanks says, “Baseball players don’t cry,” and that was the same thing that I use with the women. I used to get that question a lot. Is there a difference and I just don’t think so. Are women more emotional, maybe, but I think when you get in the canoe that stops and you have to treat them as paddlers, not men or women. You just treat them as paddlers and I think that makes a big difference.
You can’t get caught up in the pettiness and it’s with the men too. You just can’t get caught up in the pettiness of the politics of who paddles with who and that was one thing with these books that I have here. If anyone wanted to challenge decisions I could point to times in combinations and they knew that I had it all. I mean they knew that I chronicled everything, so there is never really a question and that was the one thing that I was very fortunate with is I didn’t get too many challenges.
MK: You mentioned paddletics …
MK: … and politics, I know there are a big part of the canoe racing.. .
SJS: As any sport or any club. I mean you see it today regardless of what the sport is. I think that as a coach you just have to kind of dismiss it and do what you think is best whether it would be the best training, or the best combinations with the best people. I never try to play favorites. I always tried to go off of what the times told me.
MK: And how about all the people who had suggestions for you on how to do things better or different?
SJS: I think the first couple of years that was actually helpful, but then after that it was somewhat of a distraction. I always welcomed help from the (Canoe Racing) Committee and I think that’s another part of paddling that is very important. Having the support especially when you get to distance season because there are so many moving parts of canoes and trailers and everything else that has to be coordinated. I think it’s helpful to have a strong canoe committee and actually a canoe committee chairman that knows what to do and knows what has to be done because I think there is a lot of pressure. If you are the coach there is already a lot of pressure on you to put together the actual crews, but then if you have to multiply that. That was the one thing that I saw over the years there was a big difference between year to year to pinpoint who was in charge of the committee and who was on the committee and that’s where sometimes it got somewhat petty.
MK: Right, but basically Outrigger was very supportive of the canoe racing program?
SJS: Very. One good thing Outrigger always has the best equipment, the best maintained. I love Domie. He had such pride in taking care of the Koa canoes and even then I worked with Joe Quigg a couple of years, and this is when he was redesigning the Kaoloa, and then he was making a fiberglass canoe off of that but you had the support here that other clubs don’t have. That’s why to me it’s a puzzle why we are not doing better.
MK: You’ve coached a lot of both men and women, what do you think it takes to make a good paddler?
SJS: Focus. There are a lot of sacrifices. That was the one thing that I always tried to do both men and women is at the beginning of the season. We tried to detail the amount of time and effort that they would have to put in to become either a good paddler or a good crew or make a winning effort. I think that it’s everyone buying into they have to make the same sacrifice both in time, family and there is a sacrifice. Hats off to anyone who paddles and has a wife or a husband and kids and obviously …
MK: A job.
SJS: … a job yeah. I mean there were times when my wife Jackie took care of Genie Kincaid’s daughters and I used to baby sit on the Ala Wai Katie Bourne’s daughters. I mean there is just, they made tremendous sacrifices, both men and women, and I think it’s just important that they understand that going in and everyone buys into that. The worst thing is to have someone who doesn’t have the same focus and becomes a distraction.
I’ve always tried to in all the paddling, even rugby, is to get everyone to understand that it’s not any one individual. I think that’s one of the problems with the one-man canoe now is that there is a sense that, “I’m a great one-man canoe paddler that transfers into a six-man.” No it doesn’t because you are surrounded by other people and often times the individualism becomes a distraction and you can’t have them. This again gets back to the crew foundation of everyone has to be exactly in sync.
MK: Bottom line.
MK: You are retired now?
MK: Are you retired for good?
SJS: What’s that saying, never say never? I think I have been actually asked over the last couple of years by different other clubs to come back out, but I think the biggest thing for me is it just again this goes back to the one-man canoe. It just isn’t the same because everyone expects to have that one-man performance transferring into a six-man but in six-man you are surrounded by five other people or eight other people, so I’m getting older and the paddlers are getting younger. I think their focus, I think these days kids just don’t have, or young adults just don’t have the same focus. They have so many other things that they can be a part of and it takes six months really of dedication to develop a winning crew and I think that’s one of the things with the Tahitians. They have programs down there where they are focused for six, seven, eight months of paddling and they are very competitive and it’s hard to replicate that up here.
MK: Do you think Outrigger will win again in the men or the women in the Molokai race?
SJS: No, I think the biggest problem again gets back to this sense of one-man. You have one-man paddlers, they go out there and they like paddling the one-man and they can do it on their own schedule and they see others that are doing the same thing paddling the one-man and they think, “Well, we can just get together and we can come up with a six-man canoe and we can put a crew together,” but it’s more than just that.
I think what the Outrigger women have going now is a good thing. I think Tracy Philips is putting together the women, that are buying into what needs to be done. I mean Tracy obviously being a world class kayaker, she knows what has to go in and I have to say when I coached her she was probably the most focused paddler I’ve ever coached and again that gets back to her Olympic kayaking. She also has probably the best ability to visualize and replicate whatever. I mean she was able to see, I could show her what I wanted her to do, and she would immediately do it and she was fantastic. I think she is taking that same part of her, the Olympic training, and putting it and the women are responding, I think it’s great.
MK: They are undefeated this year, they are doing great.
MK: You’ve coached other places than Outrigger and 1999 you coached the Hawaii crew for the World Sprints?
SJS: Actually that was ’98.
SJS: Yes ’98 I coached the, well I had coached before then I think for the World Sprints but that’s when it went down to Fiji and they put together try outs from different islands, they came in here. Through time trials and just knowing them, from seeing them paddling, I put together a crew and we went down to Fiji. A six-man, one-man and we had some women from the Big Island. Most of them were from here and we ended up winning every women’s race in Fiji that we entered. It was a great nucleus.
At that time I wasn’t coaching at the Outrigger so I put together a crew and we actually ended up paddling under Waimanalo because we had to be a member of a club in order to paddle. Ended up paddling as Waimanalo in the Regatta season and then into distance and that was a great crew.
MK: Some Outrigger women were on it?
MK: How did you do in Molokai?
SJS: We ended up coming in second, again this was a canoe. We had at that time Nicole Wilcox Pedersen, she ended up having to steer and we were paddling the first rendition of the Karel’s (Tresnak) boat and it was great downwind but then we got down into, we were ahead, we were way ahead as a matter of fact. Then got into a cross wind and the canoe just did not want to work and we ended up losing to Australia by a minute but we were fifteen minutes ahead of the third place crew. That was the best women’s crew I have coached.
As a matter of fact there was one men’s race that went from Hawaii Kai out to Nanakuli. Our training run was, we actually went out and picked them (the men racers) up in the middle of the bay, there after the start and we paddled with them. I think because we were actually beating some of the men’s crews, the official’s boat came up and said we had to stop. That we couldn’t be a part of the entourage of canoes heading out to Nanakuli.
MK: That was a Skippy race or the Henry or?
SJS: That was the men race, the Henry yes.
MK: Then you also coached the women at Hui Nalu for a couple of years?
SJS: For a couple of years, yes.
MK: Then you came back here and coached some more for us?
SJS: The men in 2011.
MK: Do you think we’ll ever be able to compete with Tahiti?
SJS: Again getting back to just time spent in the canoe I think it’s very difficult if you are not spending time together in a six-man canoe. It’s very difficult to put together a winning crew. You’ve had some that have come close. Maui, they had a collection of paddlers from over there that have probably come the closest, but I think it’s very difficult because of the time that it takes to just looking at these books, I mean I know what time it takes to develop a crew of six and then you have to plug in three more people. You start with six and then you find three that become compatible and mix in well, because as I told you it takes you two, two and a half hours to go from your starting crew back to your starting crew again. It just takes a lot of time, whereas Tahiti, they have paddlers and that’s, I mean that’s what they do down there. They get supplements in terms of income, they get support and you just don’t have that here.
MK: Do you think that if we switch to Ironman races for Molokai we would do better than we would against nine-man crews?
SJS: Well, you are still dealing with Tahitian crews that are pretty damn good.
MK: They’re Ironman too.
SJS: Yeah, I mean so I don’t think that part of the equation, I don’t think is going to make a difference. You still have, it still comes down to time in the canoe.
MK: Have you been involved with any of the renovations or remodelings of our canoes?
SJS: The only one that I was involved with was the, with Joe Quigg when we did the, he kind of redid the Kaoloa that was the only time, and actually working with him was fantastic, just listening to him. He’s …
MK: He’s a real boat builder.
SJS: Well, he is a boat builder but he is just very, very meticulous very exacting. I worked some with Domie when we did his work on the Koa canoes and again he is a master wood worker.
MK: Do you have a favorite of our Koa canoes?
SJS: No. I think I like the Kaoloa only because I had a crew that actually won in it. I’ve always, I mean at that time the Leilani and Kakina had not been redone. Now I think the Leilani is, I mean there is all three of them are just beautiful canoes.
MK: You have been named to the Winged “O” at the Outrigger and that’s quite a tribute for someone for their athletic contributions. How does it feel to be among the folks like Duke Kahanamoku and Dad Center who were great coaches?
SJS: Well, let me say that the, I think it’s recognition of time and effort that obviously has been put in and I think it’s great in terms of recognition, that what you’ve done actually matters. From that standpoint I think there is satisfaction obviously in that, but I do have to say I was never directly given the Winged “O”. I found out by phone. When they had the presentation I think Paula (Crabb) was the same time (actually Diane Stowell) but when they had the presentation I wasn’t here.
MK: I remember we took a picture of you a couple of days later.
SJS: I know and I actually feel like that was kind of a slap in the face to learn by phone that, obviously you are given this honor. I think it is and I don’t think there is anyone else other than someone who is dead who wasn’t here to actually receive the Winged “O”.
MK: Wow I hadn’t realized that. Have you been involved in any other sports at the Club, did you play volleyball here?
SJS: No, I’m too short.
MK: You played at Punahou though?
SJS: That’s when …
MK: Everybody was short.
SJS: Well not everyone was short but we didn’t quite have the bombers that they have these days, I mean they are pretty damn good. No, so I never played here, I played some beach but not much.
MK: You also got involved with the motorcycling boys? Some of your paddlers were involved in that?
SJS: Actually they were, Tom Conner, Jim Beaumont and I won the Molokai, not Molokai, the Mauna Kea 200, the team championship, one year and that was always fun. It was a blast start off in Hilo, go up Mauna Kea finish up at Pohakuloa. Great scenery, tough as hell, down in the swampy conditions that are in Hilo. It was a challenge but a lot of fun. Did that for I think six or seven years.
MK: Do you still ride motorcycles?
SJS: No, I used to have a place out in Haleiwa and this was a six miles up above Haleiwa, out in the middle of a cane field. Originally bought that with Paul MacLaughlin and then eventually he got out and Brant Ackerman, Walter Guild, and Jeff Kissel came in and some others, and we used to put on motorcycles races up there. That was one of those fun and then just over time just eventually left that. I had to give it back to the Bishop Estate, so I don’t have it anymore. It was fun to do that and have a place there.
MK: They are all still riding on Sunday mornings I guess?
SJS: That’s on the street, that’s crazy I would never ride on the street. There are some crazies out there who don’t see or hear motorcycles and you are at the mercy of them.
MK: Have you played any other sports here?
SJS: Just paddling, rugby.
MK: That’s enough. Now you are a married man. Where did you meet your wife Jackie?
SJS: Actually she went to Punahou the same time as I did and over time we were in the same year. We were probably best friends in high school, probably best friends. Took her to school because we used to live next door to each other for a year and then after college just ended up back together and got married.
MK: How long have you been married?
SJS: Married in ’69 so going on forty-nine years.
MK: What was Jackie’s maiden name?
MK: How do you spell it?
SJS: N-E-U-N-Z-I-G. Her father, Bill Neunzig became a member this is five or six years before he died, he became a member of the Outrigger.
MK: You have three children; Hillary, Michael and Kaione.
SJS: That’s right.
MK: Were they were all paddlers at the Club?
SJS: No, they weren’t.
MK: Who wasn’t?
SJS: Michael he paddled a little bit but he didn’t like the amount of time he would spend in training to the amount of time he would spend competing so he didn’t like that. Hillary was more into soccer and track in high school, I think she steered a couple of times but not much and Kaione has never paddled. He has been in soccer and volleyball.
MK: Michael and Hillary were steersmen?
SJS: They were yes.
MK: I remember Mike steered my son’s crew way back in those years.
SJS: Yes, he did a couple of years. He just didn’t like the ratio between paddling training and competition.
MK: What are they doing now?
SJS: Michael and Kaione work with me at Scott Hawaii and Hillary lives in Las Vegas and she is currently working for PepsiCo.
MK: Are they all married now?
SJS: No, Michael isn’t. Michael and Hillary aren’t. Kaione is engaged and has a son Steel.
MK: You have one grandson?
SJS: About to have another in two weeks.
MK: Oh my goodness. Well, that will give you somebody else to coach coming along in the future.
SJS: That was one thing I had to say, I never wanted them to follow me. I think there was too much pressure if they tried to, and I would much prefer them to do their own thing. Sometimes trying to follow in the footsteps is too much pressure on the individual to achieve the same thing.
MK: They work for you?
SJS: They work with me not for me.
MK: What do you think about the direction of the Club’s water sports program? Is it going in the right direction?
SJS: Again a lot has to do with today. Kids and individuals have so many alternative things to be involved with. I think it’s really hard to get them to the point where they really, again they want to make the sacrifices because they have so many things that are available to them. I think that’s one of the problems with a lot of kids today is they are more, they are into instant gratification because they can get it on the computer or on their phone or whatever.
A lot of these sports take a lot of effort, a lot of time, take a lot of focus. Individual sports like surfing and other water sports like that I think are great. Whatever the Club does in that arena I think is fantastic. Get the kids involved at an early age, get them to be a part of whatever program it is. I think volleyball because my son Kaione, I think the volleyball program isn’t as good as it should be, it could be. The biggest problem is the best players they go off and they play in college and never come back to the Outrigger, but there should be more to get kids involved. I think they have some good age group six-person teams that go to the mainland and do really well but just it’s hard to, you got to keep them involved all the time and there are just so many activities that the kids these days and the young adults can be involved in, it’s just really hard to focus.
MK: Outrigger has had some really amazing water men and water women. Are there some who you really admire?
SJS: One is Tracy Philips. I think she has had obviously the best of seeing the Olympics and being part of that, being on some of the crews, the women’s crews that I coached. She was part of the winning ‘92 crew, she was part of the group that went to Fiji and paddled at Waimanalo but I really respect her. I think she is fantastic.
Mark Rigg is another, just a natural athlete, good in the water. I loved coaching him, he was again part of that nucleus in the ‘86, ‘87, ‘88 time frame and he was really one of the leaders, very quiet, but when he said something or when he did something people either listened or they tried to emulate. There are other people that were before me. Tom Conner, he is one of those individuals, pretty much of an individual, but for many years he and I got along. He would steer and I would coach and we got a good, fairly good relationship. Except for sometimes when he was in the middle of the channel he would do things that I, but he was steering, but I couldn’t change. For the most part I really respected him, he had a good sense, did a lot in terms of his C-ski and the canoes that he made over the years. He really did a lot I think to bring the Club up to speed in terms of equipment. We were always, I knew with him we were always going to be competitive with the equipment we had because we did some things that other clubs wouldn’t do. There are a lot of people that contributed and I have the utmost respect for them, the sacrifices they made over the years.
MK: Well Steve I’ve really enjoyed our chat this morning, is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven’t covered?
SJS: No, I just think again that Outrigger Canoe club has a lot of potential. It has a lot of assets that other clubs don’t have whether it would be in canoeing or volleyball, surfing right in front of the Club and I think we just have to be smart on how we use those assets. The other thing, too, is I think you need to have at the committee level whether it would be canoeing or volleyball, you have to have people who really want to get involved and don’t do it just because of the politics of it because they want to check it off on their resume. Resume people I have no use for. I think it just takes a lot of work on the canoe committee. It takes a lot of work to put together a program and probably it has the most dollars of any Club sport because it involves the most people.
Logistically between equipment, moving that, getting it ready, there are just a lot of moving parts. That really is it but I think the potential for the Outrigger Canoe Club, I think is fantastic and if you can get a lot of the paddlers that have chosen not to paddle here to come back here, we could be the best in Hawaii again.
MK: I have one last question for you; what has being a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club for sixty years meant to you?
SJS: Well, anytime you are a member of a Club like that, like this, for that many years obviously you have an attachment to it. I’ve loved being a part of the Outrigger. Obviously I wouldn’t have spent as much time devoted to especially paddling but it’s kind of like a warm blanket, it’s comfortable down here. I respect a lot of people, I love spending time with a lot of the people over the years, developed some great friendships. I think it’s like any club, it’s only as good as what you make of it. There are a lot of members who are just members but don’t really participate and I think if we can get more participation I think it would be a better Club.
MK: Well thank you again very much for doing this oral history today, it will be a great addition to our archives.
SJS: Well, thank you I appreciate it Marilyn.
OCC ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS
OCC CREW MOLOKAI HOE
1978 5th Overall, 2nd Koa
1979 1st Overall
MEN’S COACH — MOLOKAI HOE
1978 Paddler/Coach, 5th Overall
1979 Paddler/Coach, 1st Overall
1982 Head Coach 3rd & 19th Overall
1984 Head Coach, 1st, 2nd, 8th Overall
1985 Head Coach, 8th overall
1986 Head Coach, 1st Overall
1987 Head Coach, 1st Overall
1988 Head Coach,1st, 2nd, 7th Overall
1989 Head Coach, 7th, 14th Overall
1990 Head Coach, 1st, 5th Overall
1991 Head Coach, 12th Overall
1992 Head Coach, 4th Overall
2011 Head Coach, 7th Overall
2012 Head Coach, 10th, 25th Overall
WOMEN’S COACH – NA WAHINE O KE KAI
1991 Assistant Coach, 3rd, 1st Koa
1992 Head Coach, 1st Overall
1993 Head Coach, 2nd, 16th Overall
1994 Head Coach, 3 and 8th Overall
1995 Head Coach, 2nd, 8th Overall
1996 Head Coach, 3rd, 13th, 15th Overall
1997 Head Coach, 3rd, 8th, 14th
1983-1992 Men’s Head Coach, Regatta and Distance
1992-1997 Women’s Head Coach, Regatta and Distance
CANOE RACING COMMITTEE
MACFARLANE REGATTA WINS
1962 Boys 17
1978 Sophomore Men
1979 Sophomore Men
1962 Boys 17
1968 Junior Men
1976 Sophomore Men
1978 Sophomore Men
1979 Sophomore Men
OTHER COACHING (NON-OCC)
1998 World Sprints, Hawaii Crew, 1st place
1998 Head Coach, Waimanalo Canoe Club women, regatta and distance
1999 Head Coach Waimanalo Canoe Club women, regatta and distance
2003-2006 Head Coach Hui Nalu women’s crews, regatta and distance