Albert E. Minvielle was the patriarch of Hawaiian outrigger canoe racing.Affectionately known as Toots, Minvielle was a competitive waterman and acompatriot of Duke Kahanamoku. Born in 1903 in Ola’a, Hawai’i, Toots competed in many swim races as a teenager and was the winning stroker in several races for the Outrigger Canoe Club in the 1930s. Toots however, was best known as the founder of the vaunted Moloka’i Hoe Canoe Race, from the island of Moloka’i to Waikiki Beach, O’ahu. Despite strong opposition and warning that it couldn’t be done, Minvielle remained vigilant for several years and finally in 1952, Tootsmanaged to talk a couple of crews into racing across the Ka’iwi Channel and gained the backing of the Waikiki Tourist Bureau to hold the race. Now 70 years since its inception, the Moloka’i Hoe was not only the first long distance canoe race but is also considered the World Championship of outrigger distance canoe racing which attracts teams to compete each October, literally from all over the world!
Notone to sit idle, Minvielle went to work with Louie Kahanamoku in the 1950s after creating the Moloka’i Hoe, bringing outrigger canoes and racing to the West Coast. In 1959, the first outrigger canoe race was held from Catalina Island to Newport Dunes on the southern coast of California. He shipped two koa canoes, “Malia” and “Nihue”, to California for the inaugural race, marshaled by none other than Duke Kahanamoku. The race was won by the team of Hawaiian all-stars organized by Minvielle. The race is still in existence today and is known as the U.S. Outrigger Canoe Racing Championships.
After pioneering the creation of these canoe races, Minvielle recognized that thesport’s growth was stifled by a lack of wooden racing wa’a. This led Minvielle to design and build the first fiberglass canoe, paving the way for modern,widespread production and class competition.
Toots’ passion and diligent efforts fostered canoe racing all over the world,including the West Coast, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and in 1979, the English Channel. There is no doubt this Johnny Appleseed of canoe paddling is the reason so many around the world have been able to compete, or be declared World Champions of canoe racing.
In1 977, Toots was named a Life Member of the Outrigger Canoe Club and in 1978 hewas named to the Hawai’i Sports Hall of Fame. Toots Minvielle passed away in 1992.