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 full transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Barbara Del Piano
May 5, 2017
BDP: This is Friday the 5th of May, 2017. I’m Barbara Del Piano (BDP), a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club’s Historical Committee. One of our projects is to take oral histories of longtime members who have made valuable contributions to our Club. We are here in the Board Room today, and it is my pleasure to interview Vikram Watumull (VW). Good morning, Vik.
VW: Morning, Barbara.
BDP: Thank you for being with us today. Before we get into your service to the Club, I’d like to get some background. Where were you born, Vik?
VW: I was born in 1958 in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was born here.
BDP: In Honolulu. How and when did your family come to Hawaii?
VW: Well, originally my grandfather came to Hawaii for the first time in 1914. He was a young man and looking for fame and fortune. He had left India, and he had been in the Philippines working. He wanted to start a career in the import/export business, so he was going in between Shanghai, China, and Manila in the Philippines. He came to Honolulu and really liked it here, and decided that this was one of the places where he wanted to do business. So in the next few years, he went back and forth but always would return to Hawaii, and thinking maybe one day that this would be his home.
BDP: Oh, how interesting. And he was from India?
VW: Originally from India. Actually, where he was born was in the province of Sindh, which is now a part of Pakistan, but he was a Hindu and he was from India at the time.
BDP: I see. Where did you go to school?
VW: I went to school at, I did my elementary at Hanahau’oli, and then in seventh grade I went to Punahou. Then after Punahou High School, I went to University of Colorado.
BDP: Colorado, I see. What did you major in?
VW: I was a business major there, and my area of emphasis was marketing.
BDP: When did you join The Outrigger?
VW: I joined the Outrigger actually the year before I went away to college, so I was 17 or 18 years old at the time when I joined, I don’t remember which.
BDP: What prompted you to join?
VW: Well, you know, my brother had been a member, my father was a member, my older brother was a member, and it was just something that I didn’t … I probably should’ve joined earlier than I did, but it was just one of those things. I was going to be going away to college, and my brother had said, “Hey, listen, being a member of the Outrigger, it’s really great to be able to come back from college and hang out there, and you can see your friends there.” So I joined when I was 17 or 18.
BDP: Do you have siblings?
VW: I do, I have one brother and I have two sisters.
BDP: And are they here in Hawaii?
VW: My older sister hasn’t lived in Hawaii in years. She lives in Bellevue, Washington, or actually now in Seattle, Washington. But my brother and my younger sister are here in Hawaii.
BDP: I see, and do they belong to the Club?
VW: They are both members of the Club, and all their children are members of the Club.
BDP: I see. And you’re married?
VW: I am married. I’ve been married for almost 29 years. I married a girl from Ireland, and she’s an …
VW: And she’s an associate member of the Club, and she’s played tennis here and has paddled here, played volleyball here, so she’s definitely a part of the Outrigger community.
BDP: Oh, how interesting. I know you have children, but how many?
VW: Tanya and I have four children. Their ages now are, my oldest daughter (Kylie) is 25 years old, and she’s graduated from college and she lives in Los Angeles, works for JP Morgan. My oldest son also graduated from the University of Colorado. He’s 23 years old and he lives in San Diego, and he works in commercial real estate. My middle son, Pierce, is a junior at University of California at Santa Barbara, and my youngest son Drew is a senior at Punahou this year, and he’ll be graduating and going to the University of California at San Diego.
BDP: I see. All boys.
VW: All … well, my oldest is a girl. Kylie.
BDP: Oh, that’s right. Your oldest is a girl. Now, when you joined the Outrigger, did you participate in any water sports?
VW: After, when I joined when I was 18, when I came back from college four years later, I started … actually, I waited a year, and then I started paddling. I paddled in the Novice B crew. That was the first time that I really had ever paddled, and really enjoyed it. In fact, I still tell people that that was probably my most enjoyable year of paddling. It was a lot of fun. We had a couple of my classmates and good friends, and we’re all about the same age, and just had all finished school and had moved back to Hawaii, so it was a really fun year of paddling. When you paddle Novice, it gives you a real good entrée into the Club, to meet other members, maybe people that you hadn’t met through school, or through other families that you knew.
BDP: Did you ever paddle the Molokai race?
VW: Yes, actually, I’ve paddled the Molokai race twice. I’ve paddled it once in 1984, and actually I paddled it in 2016, so it was a little bit of a gap in between my first year and the last time I did it last year.
BDP: Ah. And how about volleyball? Did you play volleyball?
VW: I did. I played volleyball when I came back. I played on the indoor teams, and I’d also be getting sandy up at the volleyball courts up there, and really enjoyed … it was a great group of guys … and really enjoyed playing volleyball, and enjoyed competing for Outrigger, and went to the regionals there for a couple years with the Outrigger teams. That was a lot of fun.
BDP: I see. How did you feel about moving the Club from Waikiki to Diamond Head?
VW: Actually, when the Club moved, which I believe was in 1963 (1964), I was only five years old, so I barely remember. I can still, I have some memories of going back to, or going to the original Club with my grandfather, and probably with my father. But what I really remember, Barbara, is really the pictures. I don’t really remember. I was too young to really have any memories of the old Club.
BDP: When did you first join a committee?
VW: Gosh, you know what, I probably, I think the first committee I was on was probably the House committee, and I couldn’t even tell you what year that was. I’d probably been paddling for a few years and was becoming, you know, really a part of the community for those years. You know what? Actually, now I’m thinking back, probably the first committee that I was on was Canoe Racing, because I was involved with canoe racing, so that was a good entre for me to get involved with. But I couldn’t tell you the years. Maybe, that would probably have been in 1985 or ’86. Then after that, I remember House would’ve been one of my first more non-athletic committees.
BDP: What other committees did you serve on?
VW: Well I don’t know, there’s very few committees that I haven’t served on. Historical’s probably one of them. But I was, I think I was Coordinating Director for Historical for one year when I was on the Board. But I’ve been on Admissions and Membership for years, including chairing that. I’ve chaired the House Committee, have been on Buildings and Grounds, on Canoe Racing. I served on the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation Board for years, including I was President of that for a year and a half. I left that board when I was nominated to run for the Outrigger Board.
BDP: I see. And when you were on all these different boards, did anything particularly special happen?
VW: Well, I do know that when I was on the Outrigger Board, that that was the year that the lease with the Elks Club was being renegotiated, so there was a lot of discussion on that. Of course, we spent a lot of time on that issue, as it is very important to the membership and the continuity of the Outrigger.
BDP: It certainly is, yes. When was this that you were elected to the Board?
VW: It must’ve been, I think 2002. I served for six years, and I believe I was President my last year, which was 2008. The other thing that I thought was very notable that happened when I was serving on the Board was that the Club celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008.
BDP: Weren’t you President then?
VW: I was President, and there was a wonderful book that was written about the centennial that we were a part of, and I got to be a part of, and I was very, very proud of that. It was certainly well done, and something that I hope that, it sits on my coffee table, and it’s something that I think we should all, as Outrigger members, should be very proud of.
BDP: Well, you changed the name of the book, and we were so grateful. What was the original name? Oh, I think Outrigger Canoe Club: 1908-2008.
VW: Oh, that’s right, that’s right.
BDP: And you said it sounded like an obituary.
VW: Yes it did, and I felt that that certainly wasn’t the end of the Outrigger Canoe Club, and that we needed to be much more open-ended.
BDP: Well, none of us had really thought about that, but when you came up with the name, Outrigger Canoe Club: The First 100 Years, that made so much more sense.
VW: Well, I also do remember, because six years earlier when I first got on the Board, that was one of the arguments. You know, as a rookie member of the Board, you have to be very careful about your opinion and expressing your opinion, just because you’re the rookie, right? You’re the newbie. There were some Board members that were like, “Oh, this isn’t an expense that we should do. This isn’t something that really is that important, and the membership won’t appreciate it.”
My argument was always, “Hey listen, it’s an important milestone in any organization or any place to be able to celebrate these birthdays.” You have to be proud of your heritage, and of course Outrigger has … what a legacy that we’ve had in water sports here in Hawaii. So I really felt that it was important that we honor that celebration, so I was very vocal about that it’s something that we needed to celebrate, and that we needed to do things besides the parties and everything else, that I felt the book was an important part of that whole legacy.
BDP: Well thank you, I’m glad you did. What different offices did you hold when you were on the Board?
VW: Well of course, every year we did different … I was Coordinating Director of different standing committees, including Admissions and Membership, and Buildings and Grounds, and the House Committee, Historical, Public Relations. Since I ended up being the President in 2008, I was the Treasurer, I was the Secretary, I was the Vice President, I was the President, so it was just the normal course of the six years.
BDP: But you held just about every office there is.
VW: I did, yeah. Yeah I did. I don’t know how well I did at all of them, but I gave it my best.
BDP: Well, you certainly did a good job, and it was wonderful to be President during that centennial year, wasn’t it?
VW: It was. It was great. I mean, again, it was something that I really felt that the membership should be very, very proud of, to be a part of a Club like the Outrigger that so many years ago started out as a vision, and has endured for so many years.
BDP: Tell us about your involvement with the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.
VW: Well, I’d heard a lot about the Foundation. A good friend of mine, Gerri Pedesky was on the Board when it first started. I think she was one of the original Board members, and she’d always talk about it. I always thought it was intriguing, it was a great idea. Anytime you can have a fundraising arm, or you can have some sort of 501(c)(3) that’s affiliated with a Club, I think it’s a good thing. It enables the Club to be thinking more on a broader term about the difference that it can make. The ability to take a great group of kids that are so accomplished and be able to help them with their education and be able to sponsor people in their dreams to try and fulfill their sports dreams. So I thought it was a wonderful thing to be involved with.
BDP: Are you still involved with it?
VW: Well, I am, but as our family’s supported the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation for years, and I still work with Gerri on the t-shirts. You know, I’m in the t-shirt business, so I still work with Gerri on the t-shirts for the Macfarlane race, and on the merchandise that we sell at the beach on race day, a portion of that sales goes to the ODKF, and happy to say that we’ve been able to give a little bit more money every year and do a better job with that, so that’s always an exciting, it’s an exciting thing to be involved with.
BDP: What is your profession?
VW: My company is Happy Shirts. We print t-shirts, we do a lot of merchandise for special events that come to Hawaii. One of my longtime … actually, I started, I’ve been working at Happy Shirts for 35, 36 years, and when I got there they were already doing business with the Outrigger, so I’m happy to say that the Outrigger Logo Shop is still a very good customer of ours, and really appreciate that business and being a part of all that.
It’s really fun, too, to work on the Macfarlane merchandise, because that’s something that we can put together, and it’s really special. Paddling being such an important part of my life now, it’s really fun to be able to sell, to come up with stuff that we think that the paddlers and the Outrigger paddlers are going to buy and want, and wear. Every time I see somebody wearing one of the Macfarlane shirts, I always get a little bit of a kick out of it.
BDP: Well, on the Fourth of July, the line extends all the way down the beach.
VW: It’s very popular. The Macfarlane, it’s funny because, for some of the other canoe clubs, we do merchandise that they sell at their regattas, but it’s nothing like the Macfarlane race you know? I think it’s because, I think there’s a couple different factors that make the Macfarlane shirt so popular. One is that it’s a holiday, and it’s July Fourth, and we’re celebrating being on the beach in Waikiki. The second is that, you know, the race doesn’t really … it’s fun and it counts for us, but it’s not really … doesn’t count toward the states, so it’s just a fun day, and to go out there and to watch the canoes. You know, honestly, watching a canoe regatta is probably not the most fun thing in the world, but to watch the Macfarlane regatta, especially when there’s surf, it’s always interesting. It’s always fun to watch, and watch canoes come from behind to win, or the canoes that are in front catch a wave and then swamp. So it really makes it interesting, and it’s just a really, really fun day on the beach.
BDP: And also, for a lot of the paddlers from the country, it’s the only time they ever come to Waikiki.
VW: Yeah, that’s very true. And to be on the beach, it’s such a scene, with the combination of eight (seven) lanes of canoe paddling, and the boats, and the paddlers. Then you add that to midsummer of Waikiki being busy, and the tourists that are there, and the people watching, it’s a scene. I mean, it just absolutely is a scene.
BDP: Are you still involved in Club operations in any way?
VW: Yeah, after I was President for a couple years. I didn’t do anything after I had left the Board, and I came back. I chaired Admissions and Membership for two years, really enjoyed that. I really had a lot of fun with that. I’ve always seen Admissions and Membership not so much as being the gateway … though they do provide that type of service, and you’re talking to people about new members and everything else … but really an opportunity to welcome people to our community.
People are paying a lot of money to be involved, as a member, and so you want them, when they come here, you want them to really get involved and be a part. We always ask people, “Hey, are you going to paddle? What are your interests? Where do you see yourself fitting into the Outrigger?” It was always a real thrill for me to see new members that came into the Club, and then get involved and serve on committees and paddle canoes and use the facilities, because that’s what makes it really, makes it important. We want people to be involved as being a part of that, of the Outrigger, and it’s so important. It was always, that was very thrilling for me to see that transformation.
BDP: So right now you’re not on …
VW: I’m not on any committees right now.
BDP: But you’re still working.
VW: Yeah, still working, yeah.
BDP: Still working. Well, do you get to spend much time here at the Club?
VW: Well, I’m paddling, so …
BDP: Oh, you’re paddling!
VW: Yeah, so we paddled, I paddle with the old guys. I’m 59, so I paddle with the 55-years-old. We spend two days at the Ala Wai, and we come here for one night. So actually tonight is our night that we’ll be practicing out of the Club.
BDP: Oh, good.
VW: And it’s always nice. I always like paddling out of the Club, just because it’s not the Ala Wai, and the water’s clean, and it’s gorgeous, and it’s a great way to start the weekend on a Friday to be able to get out there and paddle.
BDP: How about social events? Do you attend many of, or …
VW: We do. My wife and I, Tanya and I come to some of the social events here. We probably have dinner down here maybe two or three times a month at least on the Hau Terrace. Not so much in the Koa Lanai, but in the Hau Terrace. I always say, coming to the Outrigger, it’s always interesting because you don’t know … either you come on a Friday afternoon, Friday evening, it’s very busy, lots of people, and it’s fun to see your friends and to catch up with them and to hang out. When you’re sitting on the Terrace, it’s a little bit of everything in flux. You’ll be sitting there and there’ll be four people at a table, then there’s six people, then there’s eight people, and then people leave and other people come. It’s a very dynamic environment.
One of the things I’ve always marveled at with the Outrigger is that it’s one of the few places probably in the world that I can jump in my car with a pair of board shorts on and drive down here, no shoes on my feet, no slippers on my feet, walk into the Club, hang out all day long, even eat dinner here, and then go home. I mean, where else in the world could you ever even imagine doing something like that? I don’t really know of any other places.
BDP: Well what do you think the future holds for this Club? In 40 years …
VW: Well, I’d like to say more of the same. Of course the one dynamic, or the one pressing issue I think that we have as the … the kupuna of the Club, let’s say, or as former Board members and everything else, is just that our land lease is, it’s going to run out, and we’d have to think about what happens then. I’m of the school of thought that the Elks Club will never sell the land to us, and when the lease does come up, because we won’t be governed by any lease, and we’ll be trying to get a new lease from them, where are we going to, it might be too expensive for us to stay here. So I mean, then what happens to the Outrigger?
At that point, I’ll be in my late ’80s, so I can’t say it doesn’t matter to me, because my children are all members, and I’m hoping that one day their children will be members. So I hope that they’re able to have the same experience that I’ve had here, being able to come to a Club that’s on the beach at Waikiki and be able to participate in the sports and all the activities that the Outrigger offers.
BDP: What did you think of purchasing that property in Aina Haina?
VW: Well, I thought it was a great idea, and I’m going on record as being one of the Board members that totally supported that. I thought it was a great idea, because we needed someplace to go. It was the largest parcel, one of the largest contiguous parcels, in East Honolulu, and we want to stay in East Honolulu. We want to be somewhere where we could be. . . I mean, there’s limited availability, I don’t know where else. So that’s one of the reasons why I supported, when I was on the Board, I supported purchasing the property. I was disappointed when we decided to sell the property, when the Board at the time decided to sell it, because I don’t think that we’ll ever have an opportunity to buy another parcel like that again. That being said, nobody knows what the future’s really going to hold, which to me is a scary thing.
BDP: Yeah, because ever since the Club was founded in 1908, it has been on leased land, and that’s been the problem.
VW: Yes. But you also wonder too, there was an opportunity, Outrigger did have the opportunity to buy the land from the Elks Club, and we couldn’t agree on the price, and by the time that we were negotiating back and forth, that the Elks found another source of funding and they didn’t sell the land, obviously, but they found somebody else. I always worry about that too. If we ever reach that point, if the Elks were to one day say, “Hey listen, we’re going to sell it, here’s the price.” One, could we afford it, even based on the amount of money that we have? But two, whether we’d be able, as a Club, be able to make a decision to make it happen. Because it’s very difficult. The Board could make a recommendation, something like that, the membership would have to vote on, and as you know, sometimes it’s very hard to get the membership to agree to anything.
BDP: Yeah. What do you think of that survey that was recently taken?
VW: I’m interested to see. I think that surveys in other private clubs that I’ve seen, sometimes membership will always, they’ll say, “Oh listen, if we had a nicer Fitness Center, I would use it more often. If the food and beverage was cheaper, I’d come here more often.” Knowing the dynamics or knowing the business side of the Club, some of this stuff is just not possible. As much as I’m athletic, I’d love to have a nice Fitness Center here, but based on the size of the property that we have, I don’t know whether that’d ever be possible. Based on the cost per member, it would actually be cheaper if the Outrigger would just pay to have us be members of another club that’s someplace else, another fitness club. Of course, we’d like to have everything on-property, but maybe it’s not going to happen. Who knows.
BDP: Yeah. Well, do you have any other thoughts or memories to share with us?
VW: Actually, one of the memories I have growing up as a kid, and actually for some of my adult life, was coming down here with my grandfather. He became a member here at Outrigger I think in the mid-’50s. He was one of the first Asian Indians to come to Hawaii, so he was, I’m pretty much sure that he was probably the only Asian Indian member. I always wonder, back when he applied to join, what they thought or who … because back then, the ethnic thing was a really big … you know, a lot of the private clubs had unwritten rules about who could get in, who couldn’t get in. So I thought it was really interesting that he’d been a member for so long. I remember we’d come down, every Sunday he’d come down here and he’d have lunch, and he would sit with Tommy and Rusty Thomas. Tommy was my sponsor when I joined the Outrigger.
BDP: Oh, was he?
VW: I remember very fond memories of Tommy just being the nicest guy, and everybody knew him and he knew everybody, and always had a kind word and a smile and a handshake for everybody. I’ll always remember that. But that’s some of my first memories of the Outrigger, was coming down here with my grandfather. So the fact that I come down, my kids are members, that makes us fourth generation. My nephew Jared has young daughters now. They’re four and two, and I can see that when they turn 10, that they’ll be members too, so that’ll be like the fifth generation. So it’s been a wonderful experience to be members here, and I hope that we’ve been able to give back as much as the Club’s given us.
BDP: Oh, that’s wonderful, Vik. Well, thank you so much. This will be a wonderful asset to our archives, and we just really find it fascinating.
VW: Thanks very much, Barbara, I appreciate it.
BDP: Thank you.
Vik Watumull’s Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
OCC Board of Directors
2002 Coordinating Director Athletics
2003 Coordinating Director Entertainment
2004 Assistant Secretary, Coordinating Director Building & Grounds, ODKF
2005 Vice President Activities
2006 Vice President Operations
Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation Board of Directors
1998 Vice President
Building & Grounds
Public Relations Committee
Long Range Planning Committee
Admissions & Membership Committee
1982 19th Overall
2016 5th Masters 50
State Canoe Championships
1985 Mixed Men & Women
Macfarlane Regatta First Places
2013 Masters Men 55
2014 Masters Men 55
2016 Masters Men 55
1993 3rd Masters 35-39, :51:46