Paddler Departs Much Too Soon

Beanie Heen completed 45 Molokai Hoe races. Photo courtesy Lynn Heen

It’s never easy to say aloha to someone special, especially when that someone is taken away unexpectedly and much too soon. Harrison “Beanie” Lono Heen was a special man who left this world well before any of us had a chance to express our gratitude for what he gave and what he accomplished.

The man simply known as “Beanie” died Nov. 4 at the North Hawaii Community Hospital at the age of 60. Friends say he suffered an aneurism. He was a powerful man who had recently completed his 45th consecutive Molokai Hoe in early October.

No one saw this coming. “Auwe, what a loss!” wrote Jim on a paddling blog. “It’s hard to believe. He was such a strong man.”

Beanie was born in Honolulu and started paddling in 1965 at the age of 14. He raced in his first Molokai Hoe when he was only 15 in some of the most treacherous conditions in the history of the event.

At the age of 20, in 1971, he helped co-found Kailua Canoe Club and served as head coach of the club for many years in the 1980s and ’90s. He also paddled and coached at Lanikai and Hawaiian Civic canoe clubs.

Several years ago, he and wife Lynn moved to Waimea on the Big Island, where “Beanie” went on to touch more lives as a coach at Kai Opua, Kawaihae, Team Hawaii and Tui Tonga canoe clubs.

During his head coaching stint at Kai Opua, he led the women’s program to success in elite international races, including three consecutive Na Wahine O Ke Kai victories in the early 2000s. He also coached the men of Tui Tonga to secondand third-place finishes in the Molokai Hoe.

Beanie was a man of few words, but he had an uncanny ability to bring out the best in others, including Lynn, son Kelii and daughter Heather, all accomplished paddlers.

He recently founded yet another canoe club: Surf Park Outrigger Canoe Club out of Kawaihae, and paddled in the club’s first Molokai to Oahu crossing. No one imagined it would be his last not Beanie.

For 46 years, he never stopped teaching; never stopped giving his time, wisdom and knowledge. He was the founder of the Hawaii Island Paddle Association (HIPA) and was instrumental in opening up the Molokai Solo race to one-man canoe paddlers. He paddled in countless Kaiwi Channel one-man solo and relay races.

Despite his hectic schedule, he still found time to own several businesses, including H. Heen Carpeting in Kailua and Waimea Flooring, and was co-owner of Kohala Boat Builders and the Alenuihaha canoe.

Tom Bartlett, who lives on Kaua’i but grew up with Beanie in Kailua, recalls watching him surf at Kailua, Velzyland and Chun’s Reef.

“Always a good guy in the water and a very nice surfing style,” says Bartlett. “Then I ran into him years later when he was paddling at Kailua he put on the muscle. A real mellow guy, he had a calm disposition; just a great guy who will be missed.”

On Nov. 19, friends and family said aloha to Beanie at Kawaihae Surf Park on the Big Island. Another celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Kailua Beach Park on Oahu.

Randy Botti, the current president of HIPA, said it best: “I read an article a few years ago that asked, ‘If you fell off of the earth today, would anybody notice?’ Beanie left a dent in the universe. He made his mark and he will be missed.”

I had the chance to train with Beanie two weeks before the Molokai Hoe and marveled at the way he read the ocean in his one-man canoe. Of course, he flew right by me and a handful of other paddlers that day. The man was as strong as an ox, yet he made it look so effortless.

Hawaii didn’t just lose a great paddler, a superb coach, a wonderful husband and father, we also lost a man who was a true representation of aloha.

Mahalo, Beanie.

Beanie is survived by his wife Lynn; son Kelii; daughter Heather; brothers Francis (Marilyn) Heen of Kailua, Tommy (Jerilu) Heen of Molokai and David (Shellee) Heen of Kailua, sister Sylvia (Mal) Manoha of Kailua; two grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.