Maui Polo

1320

ALL IN THE FAMILY

maui polo
The George Manoa Sr. Invitational Polo Tournament trophy honors decades of winners.

Maui polo’s history spans many generations. “Polo was introduced by Louis Von Tempsky who was manager of Haleakalā Ranch operations at the time,” says Henry Rice, a fifth-generation Hawai‘i native, avid polo player and co-owner of Ka‘ono‘ulu Ranch. “From 1910 to 1930, it blossomed under the leadership of the Baldwin family and my grandfather, Harold Rice.”

World War II pushed the pause button on the sport until 1949, and once it made a comeback, Maui polo became a force to be reckoned with. The club teams traveled interisland to compete, as well as to the West Coast, New Zealand and Australia. “Any team from O‘ahu was an arch-rival — well, really any visiting team for that matter,” says Rice, laughing. “But we always tried to give the [visitors] a little flavor of Hawai‘i. We made sure they had aloha shirts, and that they listened to Hawaiian music and relaxed a little. Once, we hosted a poi supper, but the visitors didn’t like it much. So we sat next to them and ate their poi!”

Another time on O‘ahu, the Maui Polo team competed in a match against Prince Charles. “I can’t remember who won, but it was quite a party!” confesses Rice.

In the 70s and 80s, the Baldwin and Rice families were joined by a new generation of players, including Bill Jenkins (who currently serves as Maui Polo Club president) and Herman-Louis DeCoite, who at the time was a ranch hand for the Baldwins

“We was all involved in rodeo,” says DeCoite. “One day a bunch of us were by Eddie Tam gym — there used to be a racetrack for people to ride horses — and we started messing around with cowboy polo. There was no rules. Just us hitting a volleyball with brooms trying to score goals. Some real polo guys saw us and asked us if we wanted to learn to play. And that was that.”

DeCoite made a name for himself in the sport as both an athlete and a youth coach. “Wherever I went, I organized kids to play matches,” he says. “After I would leave, though, the people who run the clubs didn’t continue with it. Now, Maui Polo is the only club in Hawai‘i that teaches kids to play.”

maui polo
Sunny Diller (right) muscles in on her opponent.

For centuries, polo was a man’s sport. “But in the 1980s women began to play,” says Rice. “We have had some very successful Maui women’s teams win some very important matches on the West Coast. It’s very exciting to see that transition.”

More than 100 years after its introduction on Maui, polo is still going strong. “I am not sure what it is about Maui polo — maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s the history — but people know there is a standard we maintain that includes sportsmanship and fair play,” says Rice. “That, above all, is what I would like to see continue with the next generation.”

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