Saturday, March 19, 2011
Paddling with the Maui Canoe Club
First we were required to sign a waver, exempting the Canoe Club of any responsibility for our adventure.
Shel, a long time canoe club member, then gave all the newcomers a quick lesson on how to get in and out of the canoe without tipping it, as well as paddling technique and how to respond to commands.
Each of the seven canoes had a captain/steersperson and around 3 canoe club members, while us provisional members were invited to fill in where there was space. Phil was our captain, and he was the kind of person who inspires confidence in first time paddlers with a few helpful hints and words of encouragement.
It was time to go, so we took our positions beside our assigned seat and waited for the command to push off into the water. I was surprised how easy it was to enter the canoe, sitting on the side, legs swinging over and into my seat. I picked up my paddle and was ready for action. The first command was 'Ho'omakaukau' (ready your paddles). 'Hoe hapi' (paddles up) was the seond command and the third command was 'Imua' (push forward). Because I didn't understand these Hawaiian words, I just had to play a game of "monkey see, monkey do" for the time being.
Unlike Dragon Boating which has a crew of 22 seated in pairs, the Hawaiian Outrigger has a crew of 6 in single file seats including the captain who sits in Seat 6 as the steers person.
The person in Seat 1 at the front is called the stroker as in Dragon Boating, and sets the pace for the rest of the crew to follow. Seat 3 is typically the caller who yells out commands for changing sides. Thankful for Shel's brief lesson I knew that "Hut Ho" means that on hut you prepare to change and on Ho you make the transition and paddle on the other side. I was in Seat 4 and was told that I had a special job to do whenever we stopped paddling for whale watching, turtle viewing or just to rest. I had to sit on one of the beams (called the 'lako') that support the outrigger or 'ama' part of the canoe. Also in rough waters it the job of the person in Seat 4 to keep an eye on the 'lako' and steady it if necessary. This is to ensure that the canoe won't flip over, so not really prepared for an unexpected swim I was happy to comply.
At one point someone thought they spotted some manta rays but it was a false alarm. We sat and rested anyway, enjoying being out on a calm ocean, hoping to spot a whale. Finally it was time to head back so it was "paddles up" "hut ho" and we were slicing through the ocean towards the beach. Coming in was timing and turning so we could back the canoe up onto the shore. This time, once I was back on the sand, my job was to hold up the 'lako' so it didn't drag. Outrigger conoeing etiquette, requires that each crew member does his share with "Kuleana", a Hawaiian word meaning "one's personal sense of responsibility." I thoroughly enjoyed my morning paddle and went away wanting to know much more about this sport and the fascinationg history and culture that is still so much a part of Hawaiian Outrigger Canoeing today.
For more information about the Maui Canoe Club visit their website.