Story by Paul Wood
Photos by Monte Costa
It’s a Saturday night and we’re sitting in Darrell Tanaka’s garage, Island style—no cars, just picnic tables and coolers. Bright illumination spills out into the quiet, velvet darkness of Ha‘iku, Maui. Darrell’s wife, Jackie, darts out of the house bearing beautiful roast salmon fillets. The array of food on the garage’s side tables is stupendous, way beyond what the twenty or so guests could possibly eat. Out comes a chocolate cake decorated to look like the fish everyone will be hunting tomorrow. It’s got black frosting with blue dots—a peacock grouper, better known as roi.
Though it’s Saturday night, and though the guests are mostly young men, the mood is sedate. People converse in twos and threes. Some have come from other islands to be here, a few from the Mainland. This is not a party, but a preparation. Tomorrow at dawn most of these people will be slipping into the reef waters of West Maui to shoot fish that nobody wants. They’re coming together for the November ’09 Roi Roundup, the fifth such tournament since these events began just a year and a half ago.
The spearfishers at this gathering come from every part of Island life. Darrell Tanaka himself grows orchids for a living. Several are community college students. One young man works as a detailer for a Kahului car dealership. Another, from an Upcountry Maui Chinese family, works as a chef; he has brought his family tonight, including the keiki, one of whom is a first-grader at Kahului School. Two O‘ahu divers are here, Kimi Werner and Lance Otsubo; a previous roi roundup raised money for these two to represent Hawai‘i in the 2008 national skin-diving tournament, where Kimi took the women’s crown. Everyone here is focused on spearing a lot of roi—or as the divers think of them, vermin.
At one point during the conversational buzz, Darrell starts talking about tomorrow’s competition. “This isn’t just a fishing tournament,” he says. “It’s an environmental movement.”