Darlene Ricker | 09/18/17

Two Hawaii Polo Life teams brought the highest level of polo ever to Hawaii this weekend at The Kahala Hotel & Resort Hawaii Invitational of Polo 2017 Presented by Cartier. Featuring a spirited 25-goal All Pro Polo game at Honolulu Polo Club, the day was a blend of Hawaiian culture and full-throttle polo.

Teams Ele’ele and Ke’a (“black” and “white” in Hawaiian) went at it for five chukkers, with the white jerseys taking the honors 3-2. Under the stepped-up All Pro format the whistle rarely blew, keeping spectators transfixed on the action that swept Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard field in Waimanalo.

Big-hitter Luis Escobar (rated at 5 goals) captained Ele’ele, and John Paul Clarkin of New Zealand (7) was at the helm for Ke’a. Clarkin’s teammates included his cousin, Simon Keyte (6 goals), Santi Torres (7) and Gaston “Mono” Gassiebayle (6). Playing with Escobar were Mariano “Nano” Gracida (4), Jeff Hall (7) and Iñaki Laprida (7).

Although the teams had just one practice game before the big day, they played in superb sync. The play of the day came from Laprida, who brought cheers from the sidelines to a crescendo with a nearly 100-yard shot for the final goal of the game.

Earlier in the action his teammate, Hawaii Polo Life ambassador Nano Gracida, made a game-tying field goal. Gracida noted that unlike some exhibition games that are less about taking home the trophy than entertaining the crowd, this one accomplished both.

“It was amazing,” said Gracida. “There wasn’t one player on the field who wasn’t going all-out. Everyone did his part, and everyone wanted to win.” (An added incentive was the prizes, which were unusually generous for an exhibition game: Cartier watches for the winners and Cartier cufflinks for their opponents.)

A pre-show celebrated the rich history of Hawaii and its long legacy of polo, which first came to the islands in 1880. Along with Hawaiian ballads and cultural dances, the Leiala Cook Pa'u Riders (women garbed in long ornate colorful skirts) performed in an equestrian tradition similar to that of the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). After the game legendary Grammy award-winner Dionne Warwick performed in concert.

Officially sanctioned by the Argentine Polo Association, the Hawaii Invitational was organized by Chris Dawson, owner of the lifestyle clothing brand Hawaii Polo Life. Himself a polo player, Dawson is a strong supporter of all-pro polo as an avenue for young and developing players to improve their skills and increase their employment opportunities.

Sponsors of the event included: The Kahala Hotel & Resort (title sponsor); Cartier (presenting sponsor); Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard (airline partner for the players and official sponsor of the Waimanalo Polo Field for the event); Tesla (official automobile sponsor) and Pommery (official champagne sponsor of The Kahala Polo Lounge). 

Photo by Images by Cecil