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Outrigger Technique & History

Technique of Outrigger Canoeing

Outrigger Canoe (OC) paddling is fun and hard work.  To do it well, you need a good (and patient) coach and a commitment to practice and to learn all you can about paddling technique, your role in the crew, and the dynamics that move the boat.  OC paddling is a team sport.  Each member of a crew has a job to do as well as work together to have a successful crew.  All members of the crew should learn all seat positions including steering.

As a sport, canoe paddling is one of the least expensive.  The only personal equipment you really need is a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, a pfd and a paddle.

Each OC paddler has their own role, though these may vary between teams

Seat 1 sets the pace, varying as needed based on the water or course ahead, and the feel or glide of the boat. Seat 1 changes the rate depending upon the conditions.
Seat 2 will mimic Seat 1 in timing and stroke length on the opposite side. Seat 2 should be watching the water with Seat 1 and quietly communicating how the boat feels, stroke rate and length. Seat 2 only makes suggestions.  It is seat 1 decision as to stroke rate and length. Seat 2, with 4, are responsible to lean on the iako when it rises to prevent a huli as well as when the boat is a rest.
Seat 3 normally calls changes and is aware of what is happening around the canoe in order adjust stroke count. There will be times when the count must change, eg. stay on one side to prepare for a turn, start sequences, riding waves, going into turns, etc.
Seat 4 (with 5) is to power the boat & maintain balance. Seat 4 (with 2) must watch and lean on the iako when it rises to prevent a huli.  Seat 4 is also the bailer, if required, & passes messages up the boat.
Seat 5 (with 4) is to power the boat & maintain balance. Seat 5 may be required to assist the steersperson in difficult water.  Seat 5 & 6 must quietly communicate and work together.
Seat 6 is responsible AND liable. First responsibility is crew safety; second is canoe safety; third is steering and navigation and fourth is to keep the crew in time, focused and motivated. Seat 6 is a paddler when possible and communicates quietly with seat 5 for assistance.

Additional responsibilities
Whenever the canoe is at rest, an additional responsibility of Seats 2 & 4 is to be on the ‘iako (lean back and out on the ‘iako) as well as being “ama conscious” when the canoe is moving.
An additional responsibility of Seats 3 & 5 is to steady the canoe. Seats 3 and 5 must also pass along commands from the Steersperson, if necessary. Seat 6, the steersman is always in command of the canoe, however, everyone is responsible for the safety of the crew and the safety of the boat.

The History of OC

It is believed the outrigger canoe originated in the region of Indonesia, spreading outwards with the migration of its people into Samoa (the birthplace of Polynesian culture) and also Micronesia and Melanesia. Although there is evidence that it existed in other parts of Polynesia, contemporary outrigger canoe racing has its origins in the Hawaiian Islands.

It is the Hawaiian OC which is principally used internationally for racing and it is common practice to use the original Hawaiian names to name the parts which make up the framework.
Canoe terms:
wa’a – the canoe
ka’ale – the hull
iako – the two spars
ama – the floatation device, attached to the iakos
muku – the short end of the iakos, extending past the hull

Other Hawaiian terms:
Imua – go forward
huki – pull
hoe – to paddle.
hoe wa’a – canoe paddler
huli – flip the boat