The ins and outs of outrigger canoe racing

An outrigger canoe entering harbor in Hawaii
An outrigger canoe about to change paddlers in Hawaii
An outrigger canoe changing paddlers in Hawaii
An outrigger canoe changing paddlers in Hawaii

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Afloat.’ See more responses here.

I had a different canoeing post lined up for this, but a couple of days ago I happened on this scene at Kawaihae harbor early in the morning. I noticed an outrigger canoe heading in and thought it might provide a photo opportunity, so I readied myself for the canoe’s arrival. While I waited, I heard voices. I looked around but didn’t see anyone. Then I realized the voices were coming from the water and there were three people not far from shore, only their heads visible above the water. They can just about be seen in the top photo, to the far right.

At first I thought they were taking an early morning dip, but when the canoe zipped into the small harbor, I thought they were probably there to help bring the canoe to shore. Sure enough, the canoe curled around to where they were and I snapped photos. But where I expected the canoe to slow to a halt, it didn’t. Instead it curved back out toward the harbor entrance and I was left wondering what just happened.

It wasn’t until I looked at my photos that I realized what I’d seen. What the canoeists were practicing was changing crew while still in motion. In the second photo, the moving boat comes alongside the three people in the water. The third photo shows three of the boat’s crew toppling into the water on the other side of the boat. Photo four shows the trio in the water climbing aboard to take the now empty seats. Finally, the bottom photo shows the canoe heading back out into open water with barely a break in speed.

The purpose of this exercise was practice for long-distance canoe racing. During a race, a support boat takes fresh crew ahead and drops them in the ocean. At a certain point the crew change will be made in the way I’d seen. According to Wikipedia, “Longer races involving the OC6 (Six-person outrigger canoes) often involve paddler replacements, which involve exit and entry to the canoe directly from the water while the canoe is underway (this is called a water change). Typically, nine paddlers form a crew, with six paddling the OC6 and the other three resting, drinking, and/or eating on an escort boat. Replacement typically occurs at 20 to 30 minute intervals; the escort boat drops the relief paddlers into the water ahead of the OC6, which is steered toward them. The relief paddlers climb in on the ama side as those they are replacing roll out into the water on the opposite side. The escort boat then picks up the paddlers in the water so that they can rest, drink, and/or eat before they, in turn, relieve some of the paddlers in the OC6.” Wikipedia has more information about outrigger canoes and canoe racing here.

I knew about this practice, but hadn’t seen it before. I think it says something about how smooth this crew had the exchange down, that I didn’t even notice it at the time!

An outrigger canoe leaving harbor in Hawaii

17 thoughts on “The ins and outs of outrigger canoe racing

  1. Pingback: Colourful Laneway Murals #SundayStills – Natalie the Explorer

    1. Graham Post author

      When I’m early, on my way to work, I love stopping off in this area because it’s so calm and the light is lovely and there’s usually something of interest to photograph.

      Liked by 1 person

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        1. Graham Post author

          It has less to do with organization and more to do with chance. My alarm is set for 5 a.m., but sometimes I wake before it goes off and rather than hang out at home, I head out early. That’s when I make these stops. It helps that the temperature is almost always reasonable for wandering around at that hour!

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          Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      I was happy that the photos captured what I’d missed in real time. I quite like accidental photos! Glad to hear your home project is winding down. Doors on the shop is a major step!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Natalie

    Wonderful, wonderful captures, Graham. This looks like a very experienced crew and their boat is beautiful. In normal times, there are dragon boat races and outrigger canoe races in the summer where I live. They’re amazing to watch. Thank you for sharing your blog and photos with #SundayStills. Next week’s theme is ‘Colourful Murals’. I hope to see you again soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      Thanks, Natalie, and thanks for hosting Sunday Stills while Terri is traveling. The crew certainly knew what they were doing. I think there’s a big offshore race coming up that they’re practicing for.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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