Cline Mann is considered by many to be the father of modern paddleboard racing in Hawaii.
When Waikiki Surf Club cancelled its 20-year sponsorship of the annual Diamond Head paddling championships in December 1974 just days before the scheduled event, Cline Mann stepped in at the last minute, got a sponsor and personally put on the race on Christmas Day. A few weeks earlier on December 1, 1974, not knowing that the Christmas race was in jeopardy, he put on the Outrigger Canoe Club’s first paddleboard race for members only, as a warm up for the Diamond Head race. The Club continued to sponsor the Christmas race through 1977. Then with Cline’s leadership, the Club began sponsoring the Waikiki Winter and Summer Ocean 10K races. In 1981, the annual Summer Surf Paddleboard Race was added.
Without his knowledge, in 1985 the Paddleboard Committee wanted to pay tribute to Cline for his many contributions to paddleboard racing and changed the name of the Summer Waikiki Ocean 10K Race to the Cline Mann Paddleboard Race and reduced the distance to 5,000-meters. Cline was shocked that the committee had been able to do this without his finding out.
In 2000, the Paddleboard Committee changed the Cline Mann 5K to the Cline Mann Memorial Ko`olaupoko Paddleboard Race, a 15-mile race from Makai Pier at Makapuu to the Club beach. Cline had long thought about such a race because of the challenge it offered and because it hadn’t been done.
Cline had his hand in every detail of the paddleboard races the Club sponsored. He personally addressed the event flyers to interested paddlers. He set the turn buoys early in the morning before the race so he could be on the beach by check in time to lend his encouragement to the participants. He hand drew a map of the course which he clearly described before the race started. He insisted on a photograph before the start of the race with all participants, with the boards on their tails pointing toward the sky. Then, with a megaphone in hand, he started the race.
At the end of the course, he stood in the water, welcoming each paddle boarder back to the beach, signaling to the timers each participant’s official finish. After giving out awards to the winners, he joined them on the Hau Terrace to talk story and enjoy a “cool one” with his friends.
In the early years, the race participants were mostly Outrigger members and lifeguards. Today it is not unusual for more than 100 people to enter. In addition to the two paddleboard races that Outrigger continues to sponsor, Cline’s influence has been felt in the greater community where numerous paddleboard races are now held around the island.
Cline was interested in paddleboard racing long before he got involved with the Christmas Day race. In the 1960s, Cline commissioned Joe Quigg to make him two 12-foot balsa paddleboards. Over the years these boards were loaned to many paddlers for paddleboard races including the Lanai to Maui Paddleboard Race.
Others were notable in pioneering 20th Century paddleboarding, including Gene “Tarzan” Smith and Tom Zahn of California. Smith was navigating the channels between Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai on a 90-pound wooden paddleboard in the 1930s and 1940s while Cline was growing up. Considering his equipment, his feat is even more remarkable. Zahn was a Santa Monica lifeguard who paddled the Molokai Channel in 1953 but never tried to duplicate Smith’s other endeavors. Using Joe Quigg paddleboards, he won the Catalina Channel race five times and the Diamond Head Paddleboard Championship four times.
But it was Cline who made sure that paddleboard racing survived by offering competition on a consistent and fair basis. With Joe Quigg, George Downing, Donny Mailer and other paddlers, Cline established the criteria for a new class of paddleboards: 12-feet in length and 20 pounds, with no mechanical rudder. Cline’s idea was to enable more paddlers to participate by offering a board that did not have the advantage because it was made from costly materials. This kept the sport fair for many years. As new materials became more affordable decades later, lighter boards entered the arena. It took convincing but Cline eventually allowed the lighter boards into the OCC races. His fear was that the older records would be wiped out with the lighter, faster boards.
Born January 11, 1923, Cline Mann joined the Outrigger Canoe Club in April 1938. He was a member of the Class of 1941 at Punahou School where he was captain of the swimming team. Then he was off to the mainland to Dartmouth College where he swam freestyle and backstroke events, graduating in 1944 with a degree in civil engineering. He was a surveyor by profession and was a recognized authority in Hawaii ahupua`a (land divisions).
Water sports were Cline’s forte. He was the Club Champion in Sunfish and Scorpion sailing and passed on his sailing skills to a multitude of younger members, some of who became champions. Never a paddler himself, he was a helper on dozens of Molokai canoe race crews beginning in 1960, designing the change charts and providing other support to our crews.
As our Club President in 1964, he saw the Club through the growing pains of transition between the new and old clubs after chairing both the Planning and Building Committees. He served on the Sailing, Volleyball and Canoe Racing Committees. He served as Club Captain from 1965-1967 and represented the Club in the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association for eight years.
Cline was elected to the Club’s prestigious Winged “O” and to Life Membership in the Club.
After Cline’s death on September 16, 1996, monetary donations to the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation provided for a fund designated for water sports and paddleboarding.