Special for The Maui News
Sam Kuailani broke the second biggest tako in the 33-year history of the Larry Libres fishing and diving tournament, setting a new record on Saturday at Kanaha Beach Park.
The event returned to Kanaha after being canceled last year due to COVID-19. The 2019 tournament attracted 533 competitors. Due to emergency public health rules, the total number has been capped at 200 this year, including 190 competitors and 10 competition officials.
Kuailani’s 6-pound, 9.5-ounce octopus was the largest of the 78 takos to hit the scales. He was right behind Richard Acain’s 8lb 1oz catch in 2000. But it was the way Kuailani caught the winning tako that came as a surprise. He is the only Libre winner to win first prize without wearing fins.
“I walked to the beach, I forgot my fins” Kuailani said, indicating a distance of about 200 meters from where his fins were located. “They were over there near my table. I was all anxious this morning, I never had my coffee, that’s how it is sometimes.
The 12-foot height of the 5-foot-8, 250-pound Kuailani proved to be quite powerful in the rough water.
“I jumped without the fins, it was good, kept me inside”, he said. “The tako was just inland, 40 feet from shore in 5 feet of water.”
Competition officials could hear Kuailani screaming from the water when he took his catch –“I was screaming very loud” he said. “Shout, ‘I’ve got the fat one.’ “
“When I was swimming there was no explosion, no sign, all I saw was a slab with a black hole”, Kuailani said. “All the rocks and all the eruptions were in the hole. So when I pulled back, I looked inside, it turned black, and I was like, mahalo ke Akua.
“I’m very happy. It’s been 14 or 15 years since I joined Larry Libres and I’m finally on the podium.
The Wailuku resident, 54, is a spearfishing and inshore fishing guide for an adventure business.
“I’m doing something that I love to do. It is difficult to call sick for this kind of work ”, Kuailani said.
Kaimana Bush placed second with a 3-pound, 14.5-ounce tako. The 25-year-old landscaper from Kihei was diving with his father, Kevin.
“I’ve been doing this competition with my dad for about six or seven years,” he said. “The last time I finished I finished seventh in 2018.”
As Kuailani found his hold inside the reef, Bush pushed his out.
“I was there, I’m probably going down to the sixth pier, and just before the breakers I found a big rash,” Bush said. “It was almost the second reef in about 7 feet of water.”
Like Kuailani, Bush was excited.
“I was screaming in the water” he said. “He had a big hole, probably the size of a basketball. It was like a ledge, with a big explosion so I started to look around. I never see it, so just when I look back I see it hidden inside, and I was all happy.
Another family couple was Mace Oura, 9, diving with his grandfather Fernando Pagampao, the 2018 winner.
Oura brought two takos, each over 2 pounds, to the scales.
“He’s good, he’s starting to learn” Pagampao said. “He wanted to learn, so I thought I would take him. This is one of the things I can teach him.
“I stung one of them” Oura said. “It was a long time (in the water). My legs were tired.
In oama divisions, no oama was caught, so competition officials measured any fish caught on shore. 2018 champion Zellah Rellez of Wailuku won the 12 and under division while Martha Shigeta, 66, of Kahului won the 13 and over division.