Magazine article Sunset

Let the Outrigger Canoe Races Begin!

Magazine article Sunset

Let the Outrigger Canoe Races Begin!

Article excerpt

IN ANCIENT HAWAII, THE hand-carved canoe was the ultimate expression of oceanic technology. Hawaiian royalty traveled in swift canoes delicately balanced with graceful outriggers. And in the early 19th century, King Kamehameha's massive canoe navy helped bring the islands under his rule. During festivals, the same vessels used for fishing became hot rods raced for speed and distance.

While the sport nearly died out during the last century, outrigger canoe racing has undergone a strong revival in recent years. This year, about 80 canoe organizations will compete in at least a hundred scheduled races between January and November.

Modern racing canoes are streamlined versions of six-man fishing canoes. The design approved for all races is not more than 45 feet long and weighing at least 400 pounds.

Boat crews provide a study in teamwork. The bow paddler, or stroker, sets the pace; the person in second or third position calls side-to-side paddling changes every 8 to 14 strokes. The two middle paddlers provide brawn; the fifth adds to the brawn but is mainly responsible for bailing in long-distance races. The rear paddler is the steersman, using the paddle as a rudder to turn and also reading the waters and currents to plot a course so the canoe won't huli (capsize). …

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