In September 1989, surfskis, better known as kayaks, were introduced to ILH. This program was designed as a feeder program for the young athletes of Hawai'i to the sport of Olympic-style flat water sprint racing. Since the start of this program, Hawai'i has been producing some of the nation’s top junior flat water kayakers, many of them from Punahou School.
Hawai‘i is the only state that offers interscholastic kayaking, and the success of this high school sport is influencing other states interested in expanding their water-based activities.
Punahou’s first coach, Marshall Rosa, was building kayaks in the early 1980s. With the success of the Hawaii Kayak Racing Association and with pioneers like Rosa, Kala Kukea, George Kissner and Herbie Lloyd, kayaking found its way into the ILH in 1989.
Fall races on the Ala Wai include both the short 250 meter sprint and the 2,000 meter long distance. Team championships are determined by combining winners in various timed heats for both distances. Individual champions are also honored.
The Punahou girls team won the first three team championships and continue to battle Kamehameha each year for kayaking supremacy. The popularity of kayaking is increasing, although as of 1996 there was no high school state championship tournament.