That’s what an outrigger canoe is. Ok good, are we done here? Everyone got it?
No? Alright then, I guess a little more information is necessary. Here we go:
Outrigger canoes trace their origins back about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The original intentions behind their conception was as a main means of transportation and fishing for island dwelling inhabitants. They were most often seen in areas such as Oceania, Polynesia, other various island cultures and of course Hawaii.
The main purpose of the attached outrigger is to provide the paddlers with more stability in the ocean. It helps to keep the balance of the hull when facing rough water or when paddling quickly. In a way it provides a safety net for those within the canoe as they can rely on the added balance when in the open water. Paddlers have to be careful not to lean too much on the side without the outrigger as this may cause the canoe to capsize. This, however, is an unusual occurrence.
And as human nature dictates, competition naturally arose from the simple inception of the canoe. Most likely races started between fisherman, testing one another to see who could be the first canoe in and out of the surf during their long work days. Out of this simple practice, an entire racing sport was born.
So how does it work? How do 6 people sit in one canoe and make it go forward, quickly, without going in circles?
Well in an outrigger canoe, such as the one owned and operated by the good people at Walk on Water, the paddlers sit in a line, facing forward toward the bow (front for those non-nautical folks), which is obviously different from a rower. The seats are numbered from 1 to 6, with 1 being in the front of the canoe and 6 being in the back. The person in position 1 is called the stroke, or ‘stroker’, and is responsible for setting the pace of the paddle strokes. Everyone else in the canoe must follow the pace of the person in position 1 as this will give the optimal continuity and flow of the canoe over the water. The person in seat position 1 should have a high level of endurance as well, since the rest of the team must follow their speed.
The person in position 6 is responsible for steering. Usually the person in position 6 is very experienced as steering can be a challenge to a newcomer. Imagine going quickly over the water, having to make a right hand turn and instead turning left into a dock, smashing the canoe, sinking it, and having to swim back to shore. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But not in the good way. It’s like the same excitement you receive when your car blows a tire on the road and you have to quickly maneuver through traffic, throw on your hazard lights, and walk to a gas station where the mechanic there overcharges you for something as simple as replacing a tire. A tire you are now going to have to pay twice for because you took out the spare from your trunk because you could fit more groceries in there without it! Oh, what an idea! Wait, wait, back to the canoe. The person in position 6 should be experienced and luckily we have such experienced paddlers on staff!
In the middle of the canoe, positions number 3 and 4 are the powerhouse. They are the engines burning the coal, making the canoe fly across the water. Any of these numbers, even position number 2 can be the ‘caller’. It is their job to give the signal when to switch over their blades, and when to pick up or slow down the stroking pace. Usually the caller is someone with strong leadership skills and a loud voice. Which is good news for that special someone in your life that is both bossy and loud! And we all know someone like that.
Every position on the outrigger canoe is part of a larger whole, which makes it a great team building experience as well as a great way to have a unique and interesting work out.
So, if you would like a real taste of island life, you know, besides fruity drinks, hula skirts, straw hats and bad Tommy Bahama flower shirts, it doesn’t get more authentic than this. So stop in, ask questions, sign up, and get out there. How many people can say they’ve paddled an outrigger canoe? Not many. You won’t regret it.
And in case you were wondering what it looks like to have 5 beautiful girls paddling an outrigger canoe, worry not, it looks like this:
Photo Credit: Alana McGeehan