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The Sport of Paddling

The following provides basic information on some of the elements of outrigger canoe paddling, including safety, crew responsibilities, equipment & what to wear.


Because outrigger canoe paddling is a water sport, it is imperative that you know how to swim. There is always the chance that your canoe will flip over (huli) during a recreational paddle on the bay, and your fellow paddlers need to feel comfortable that you can take care of yourself if that happens. This is for your own protection and the protection of your crew.


Huli – when the canoe inverts
It is your responsibility to know what to do if the boat hulis. If you aren’t sure, ask a Wahine to teach you and spear head a huli clinic in which you can practice as a team. In the event the canoe flips over, each paddler has a particular responsibility, the better you work together as a team, the faster the job goes and you’ll be on your way!


The Paddle
Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling requires a minimal amount of equipment necessary to participate. Outside of the canoe, the only equipment essential to paddling is the paddle itself (also known as a “blade”). Each paddler will require a paddle that matches their body to allow for full comfort and potential. We have a selection of paddles to choose from. If we do not have a paddle that works well for you, it is a good idea to buy one, which you may store with the other club paddles, or bring with you each time you paddle.


Paddlers who take on the role of steers-person will require a special steering blade, we have those available.


The Crew - OC-6
We pool our wisdom, energy, and passion for the San Francisco Bay to fuel our canoe. When we work together as a whole, we strike a zen like glide over the water. While each OC-6 can only seat six paddlers, every woman on the boat plays an important and vital role in achieving that glide while working in unison. Each seat in the canoe requires certain talents and each seat comes with its own sets of challenges and responsibilities.


Each paddler from seat number 1-5, paddles alternately on the opposite side from each other.


Seats 1 and 2 – Seat 1 (also known as a “stroker”) sits in the very front seat of the canoe. Seats 1 and 2 are primarily concerned with ensuring the rhythm and pace of the paddle strokes, which Seats 3,4,5 follow. They paddle on opposite sides and as such neither has a paddle to follow. Seat 1 sets the pace. Seat 2 must follow in perfect time, mirroring the stroke pace so as the power distribution remains equal and synchronized down the length of the canoe. A good stroker should be able to adjust the stroke for variable water and wind conditions. Seats 1 & 2 listen to the steers-person's requests and adjust the stroke accordingly.


Seat 2 counts and calls the changes which mark the paddlers changing the side of the canoe on which they paddle. On counts 13, 14, 15; she calls "Hut, Hi, Ho".


Seats 3 & 4 – Often referred to as Power Seats, the heavier, stronger paddlers will generally take these positions. It is their primary task to provide the brute power required to push the canoe along. Number four seat generally takes responsibility for ensuring the canoe remains as dry as possible, bailing when needs be.


Seat 5 – Seat 5 is also a power seat but also needs to have knowledge of steering to assist the steers-person when necessary. They are also referred to as the keeper of the ama. This entails that they must eyeball the ama (the outer float) to make sure it is stable. If it looks at any time to be lifting threatening a huli, they must quickly react to save it. Failing this, Seats 3 and 4 need to recognize the predicament and also try to save the canoe from going over. Seat 5 must also take responsibility for bailing if required should there be an excess of water in the canoe.


Seat 6 – The steers-person, who is the captain of the canoe, calls the shots, motivates the crew and sets the most exciting coarse for the conditions. She and seat 5 protect the ama from bouncing and keep the canoe from huling. Steering a 45ft canoe on the San Francisco in rough water is an art form. Those that learn their trade well can be considered masters of a task, which requires intimate understanding of the dynamics of the water and the nuances of the canoe and crew.


Suggested Wear

  • Sunglasses

  • A bottle of water

  • Sunscreen

  • Visor or Beanie: weather depicting

  • Comfortable clothing that allows movement: shorts, tee shirt or rash guard, and a visor on warm days. On colder days, wear slightly warmer clothing; layer with fleece, neoprene, nylon, and other synthetics such as a long sleeve rash guard, wool or synthetic beanie, and windbreaker. (We warm up quickly as we paddle!) Wool is fine, but synthetics are lighter, warmer, and retain less water.

  • Many paddle barefoot, but you may choose to bring footwear that is lightweight and can be worn in the water, such as reef shoes or neoprene booties.

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