A Look at Outrigger Canoeing in Hawaii (Infographic)

A Look at Outrigger Canoeing in Hawaii (Infographic)

Oahu is a water sport enthusiast’s dream, and by far one of the most popular water activities is outrigger canoeing. Let’s take a closer look at outrigger canoeing, its history, and some tips for a more enjoyable experience. This information is provided with the utmost respect for a cultural tradition shared by many people around the world. Help celebrate and keep this tradition going strong by sharing your own stories and love of outrigger canoe paddling with others.

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A Brief History of Outrigger Canoeing

  • The outrigger canoe was introduced in Hawaii around 200 A.D. by Polynesian settlers.
  • Around the 1300s, the back-and-forth voyage between the South Pacific and Hawaii stopped, and the outrigger canoe evolved to accommodate the Hawaiian waters.
  • During his arrival in 1779, Captain Cook reported seeing over 1,000 outrigger canoes—known as the wa’a. But the shift toward a European way of life led to a decline in outrigger canoes.
  • In 1875, King David Kalakaua brought back the sport of outrigger canoe racing.
  • In 1908, the Outrigger Canoe Club was founded in Oahu.
  • In 1986, outrigger canoe paddling was named Hawaii’s official state team sport.

Hawaii’s Unique Outrigger Canoes

Due to the harsh Hawaiian terrain, the canoe became the perfect means of water transport for explorers. What makes the Hawaiian outrigger canoe unique?

  • A simple design that ignores ornamentation
  • A hull made from a single hollowed-out log
  • A curved outrigger float—called an ama—allowing for greater stability and reduced drag

The Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association

Hawaii’s head paddling association, the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, has 7 chapters spread throughout the islands, include 2 chapters in Oahu.

  • The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association
    • 18 clubs
    • Over 3,000 paddlers
    • Koa wood canoes
  • Hui Wa’a
    • 19 clubs
    • Over 2,000 paddlers
    • Fiberglass canoes

The two largest clubs on Oahu’s Windward Coast:

  • Kailua Canoe Club
    • Founded in 1971
    • Over 350 members
    • 18 fiberglass canoes, 2 koa canoes
  • Lanikai Canoe Club
    • Founded in 1953
    • 400-500 paddlers, ages 9+

Common Outrigger Canoeing Injuries

A series of surveys found outrigger canoe paddlers suffer from a wide range of injuries, with 62% of respondents reporting some type of musculoskeletal injury caused by paddling.

The most common injuries:

  • Shoulder – 40%
  • Back – 26%
  • Wrist/hand – 10%
  • Neck – 9%
  • Elbow – 9%

Prevent Injuries by Stretching

Stretching is the best way to prevent injury and keep yourself limber while you paddle.
1. Shoulders

  • Place your right hand on your left shoulder, elevating your right elbow. Press into your right elbow with your left palm. Hold and repeat with other shoulder.
  • Bend your arms forward at the elbows. Pull your elbows back to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat up to five times.
  • Bring your arm over your head. Elevate your elbow and pull it down with your opposite hand. Hold and repeat with the other side.

2. Back

  • Lying on your stomach, elbows bent under you, palms flat, lift your upper torso using your arms. Your hips and pelvis should still be in contact with the ground. Relax your back muscles, going only as high as you are comfortable.
  • On your hands and knees, sit back so that you’re sitting on your heels. Reach your hands forward, feeling the stretch in your middle back.
  • Sit tall with your arms across your chest. Rotate to one side until you feel a moderate stretch. Repeat 10 times to each side.

3. Neck

  • Sitting cross-legged on the floor (or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor), place your left hand on top of your head and slowly tilt your head to the left, applying gentle pressure to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Sitting with a tall spine, hips firmly planted, bring your palms to the back of your head. Tuck your chin into your chest and press your hands down to stretch your neck. Hold for 30 seconds.

Tips for Beginners

  • Timing is everything. Paddling in unison makes for a smooth, speedy journey, so match the timing of the paddler in front of you.
  • Don’t stop paddling. If you stop paddling, you throw off the timing of everyone behind you.
  • Don’t talk in the canoe. The steersman should be the only one doing any talking.
  • Avoid hitting the sides of the canoe when paddling.
  • Follow the pros. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from more experienced paddlers.
  • Have fun!

Brought to you by Oahu Spine and Rehab | oahuspineandrehab.com

  • https://hawaiianpaddlesports.com/social/outrigger-canoeing/
  • https://www.hemakeewaa.org/
  • https://archives.midweek.com/content/columns/currents_article/shouldering_paddling_injuries/
  • https://www.hawaiilife.com/articles/2012/09/outrigger-canoe-paddling/
  • https://www.kailuacanoeclub.com/sample-page/history/
  • https://www.facebook.com/lanikaicanoeclub?sk=info
  • https://www.lanikaicanoeclub.org/about-us/canoes/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769922/
  • https://outriggersantacruz.org/page13/assets/IntroHawaiianOutrigger.pdf
  • https://www.howtostretch.com/p/shoulder-stretches
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotator-cuff-injury/multimedia/shoulderstretches/img-20008003
  • https://www.athletico.com/2012/03/28/stretches-to-minimize-back-pain/
  • https://www.physioadvisor.com.au/8110950/upper-back-stretches-upper-back-flexibility-exer.htm
  • https://www.fitsugar.com/Stretches-Sore-Neck-Pictures-8692689#photo-5
  • https://www.adventure-inspired.com/2011/08/why-you-should-try-outrigger-canoeing.html
  • https://www.lokahi.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/paddler-guidelines-packet.pdf

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