The dream of a women's Molokai-to-Oahu canoe race began in 1954, two years after the inaugural men's event. Waikiki Surf Club's Senior Women’s crew proposed the race, facing skepticism from coaches and officials who doubted women could handle the challenging channel. It took years of persistence to prove them wrong.
In October 1975, with favorable conditions, two crews of 18 women each made the first unofficial crossing. "Onipaa" from four canoe clubs and another crew from Healani Canoe Club, coached by Babe Bell, demonstrated that women could conquer the Kaiwi Channel. Hannie Anderson and Leinani Faria officiated this groundbreaking crossing.
Four years later, in 1979, the dream became a reality with the establishment of Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women of the Sea). Puna Kalama Dawson christened the race, featuring the iconic Na Wahine profile logo by artist Toni Marston. Mary Winchester of Windward Kai Canoe Club became the first president of the newly formed race production, while Hannie Anderson assumed the role of Race Director.
Over the years, Na Wahine O Ke Kai has become a global championship, drawing women paddlers worldwide. From 17 crews, the race has expanded to 70, evolving in crew size, divisions, and canoe types. Despite cancellations in 1980 and 2015 due to extreme conditions, and a break through COVID-19 impacts, the race has flourished for 45 years, thanks to the unwavering support of race supporters, volunteers, and dedicated paddlers who perpetuate Hawaii's cultural heritage. In 2023, the baton of race production was passed from the Na Wahine O Ke Kai Board of Directors to the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, uniting this esteemed race with the Molokai Hoe under a single banner.