His father was Albert Edward Minvielle who “served in Porto Rico, before coming to Hawai‘i, as a sanitary officer under the United States officials and carries high recommendations from these and other employers.”
The father later worked for the Honolulu Police Department as an interpreter. He later “has been twice already to Porto Rico for laborers for Hawaii and it was through him that the first Porto Ricans were brought to the (Islands.)” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, December 31, 1909)
He became the chief recruiter for the Hawaiian Sugar Plantation Association. Minvielle’s recruitment for the HSPA resulted in eleven expeditions bringing to Hawaii some 5,000-Puerto Ricans between December 23, 1900, and October 19, 1901. Of this number, 2,930 were men, and the rest were women and children. (O’Brien)
The son took the father’s name, but he generally went by the name ‘Toots.’ Toots Minvielle was born June 1, 1903 in Ola‘a Hawaii, where his father managed a sugar plantation store. Toots moved to Oahu in 1916.
The University of Hawai‘i formed its first swim team on October 1924. The swimmers did not have a coach, Team captain was ‘Toots” Minvielle. The team finished with a loss to Pearl Harbor Marines and a win against McKinley HS. (Cisco)
After graduating in 1929 from the University of Hawai‘i as an Engineer and Land Surveyor, he worked on Molokai as a Military surveyor. (Jacobs)
An avid waterman, Toots is credited with starting the Molokai to O‘ahu canoe race, as well as introducing outrigger canoes in California – and, building the first fiberglass outrigger canoe.
“I worked for Molokai Ranch from 1934 to 1938, and that’s when I got the idea for a Molokai to Oʻahu canoe race. All the races then were flat-water races, and I wanted to race in the open ocean. I tried to get George Cooke of Molokai Ranch to sponsor it, but I couldn’t interest him or anyone else until 1952.”
“That year two friends of mine, John Lind and Vance Faucett, were involved with Aloha Week, and they got the committee (to agree) to sponsor the race if I could get three teams to enter. Waikīkī Surf Club was the first to enter with their canoe the Malia.”
“The second team was a crew from Kukui o Lanikāula Canoe Club of Molokai. They used a 30-foot canoe I had picked up at Nāpoʻopoʻo. The third team was a bunch of guys from Ala Moana Park, and they used a 30-foot canoe owned by Dad Center. Each team had a six-man crew.”
“We set the race for October 27 (others note it was October 12, 1952) and decided it would start at Kawākiu and end at the Moana Hotel. … We all slept (on the beach at Kawākiu) that night. In the morning we had a service, and then I went out on the point. The surf was really big, and I signaled with a towel between sets to get the boats in the water.”
“When the three boats were out, I started the race, then flew back to Oʻahu. In the channel, the Malia’s lashing broke three times. Surf Club had also rigged a plywood keel to the bottom of the ama that they thought would help them track better in the open ocean.”
“They sawed it off in mid-channel. And none of the canoes had splash covers, so they all had to bail the whole race. Surf Club had the Malia, the best boat, and they probably should have won, but all of their problems slowed them down.”
“Molokaʻi won in eight hours and fifty-five minutes, Surf Club was second, and the guys from Ala Moana Park were third. They all finished within eighteen minutes of each other. Francis Brown had put up $500 for first place and the Aloha Week committee had put up $300 for second and $ 100 for third. (AE “Toots” Minvielle, November 30, 1977; Clark)
“Outrigger-canoe racing … was brought to the Mainland in 1959 by (Minvielle,) considered the father of the sport.” (LA Times) The first outrigger race held there was on September 20, 1959, a long distance race from Avalon on Catalina Island to the Newport Dunes inside the California Coast.
The first race involved two canoes shipped to California from Hawaii through the efforts of Minvielle. Both of them were koa wood canoes with the names Malia (calm waters) and Niuhi (shark.) (CatalinaCrossing)
In 1954, Minvielle built the first fiberglass canoe, and it proved equal to canoes made of koa, which was growing scarce. Today, most races have special divisions for koa canoes. (Sports Illustrated)
In 1970 he sent the first Hawaiian team to race in Tahiti, in 1976 to Japan, and in 1978 to England to race the English Channel.
While introducing the German people – particularly their Olympic athletes – to outrigger canoe paddling, in 1981, Toots approached the International Olympic Committee and proposed the acceptance of outrigger canoe racing as an Olympic event. (Jacobs)
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Owen Miyamoto says
Toots was my boss on the survey team for the Fort Barrette Road. He taught me everything I know about highway surveying field work.