Polynesian outriggers club to host races at festival

They’re on the water at least three times a week from March to October. Some are natives of Hawaii. Some are folks who have traveled to Hawaii and love the culture. Others just like to paddle.

They are the Hui Heihei Wa’aa Polynesian outrigger club of Kitsap County, and they are more than 100 members strong.

The club will be at the Water Trails Festival on June 24, at the Silverdale Waterfront Park. They will be hosting their annual regatta and anticipate six other clubs will be there to compete.

“Water Trails falls right during our regatta season and it just so happens that the regatta we host is on that Saturday,” said Pat Brown, club president. “There’ll be a lot of canoes on the water that day.”

Brown said races will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and there will be an announcer calling the races. In between races, there will be Hawaiian music.

“Canoes will be all over the lawn and there will be a tent for the race officials,” she said. “And just to the right of the flagpoles, will be the announcer’s stage.”

Races include 500-meter, 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter lengths. And as Brown pointed out, this regatta is one of a handful where participants are trying to qualify for the World Sprints.

“People will be vying for a spot on Team USA,” she said, describing the World Sprits as the Olympics of outrigging.

According to paddling experts, the outrigger canoe is a type of canoe featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull. Smaller canoes often employ a single outrigger on the port side, while larger canoes may employ a single-outrigger, double-outrigger, or double-hull configuration.

The sailing canoes are an important part of the Polynesian heritage and are raced and sailed in Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and by the Maori of New Zealand.

Unlike a single-hulled canoe, an outrigger or double-hull canoe generates stability as a result of the distance between its hulls rather than due to the shape of each individual hull.

As such, the hulls of outrigger or double-hull canoes are typically longer, narrower and more hydro-dynamically efficient than those of single-hull canoes. Compared to other types of canoes, outrigger canoes can be quite fast, yet are also capable of being paddled and sailed in rougher water.

This paddling technique, however, differs greatly from kayaking or rowing. The paddle, or blade, used by the paddler is single sided, with either a straight or a double-bend shaft. Despite the single paddle, an experienced paddler will only paddle on one side, using a technique such as a J-stroke to maintain heading and stability.

The outrigger float is called the ama in many Polynesian and Micronesian languages. The spars connecting the ama to the main hull are called ʻiako in Hawaiian and kiato in Māori or in Micronesian languages, the term aka is used.

The club was founded in 1997 by coach Rod Rodenhurst, who moved to Kitsap County from Hawaii.

The best way to find out about the sport is to come out to a practice session, Brown said.

“Come down and get in a canoe with us,” she said. “We’ll show you the basics and then take you out on the water.”

The club offers a couple of times out before you have to decide if you want to join them.

Members paddle on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. at Silverdale on Dyes Inlet, and again at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. There is a club for youth who want to learn the techniques which meets on Saturdays after the adults practice.

While traditional outrigger paddlers sometimes wear ceremonial dress, club members wear shorts and tank tops with the team logo. In colder months, they wear heavier clothing. There are some in their group who paddle year-round.

When the season begins, the club has an “Blessing of the Canoes,” usually performed in native Hawaiian language.

To contact the club, checkout their website at www.www.hhwsilverdale.org or write to Hui Heihei Wa’a, PO Box 2852, Silverdale, WA 98383, or email the club at at info@hhwsilverdale.org. Call Pat Brown at 360-698-1509 for registration questions or to schedule a practice time.

How to row:

The sport is based in synchronized paddling, with all paddles entering and exiting the water at the same time and all paddlers using the same technique — provides the maximum pull and lift for the minimum effort. This can only be achieved through developing a consistent paddling technique both individually and as team, it requires practice.

Rotating from the hips allows paddlers to apply leverage and deliver maximum pull through the water. Twisting the upper body instead of using the arms utilizes stronger muscle groups and minimizes fatigue. This reach and twist motion requires flexibility. Locking the lower body and arms also results in less rocking of the canoe creating a consistent streamlined hull. Paddlers should maintain a straight line up the spine, twisting around this plane, with heads up and all in a row. The optimum degree of lean (forward) is influenced by the paddler. Smaller paddlers may use a dynamic approach where they lean forward a little (10-30 degrees) at the start of the stroke to increase reach and then straighten during the stroke to provide power.

Outrigging Terms

wa’a— canoe

ama— outrigger float

iako — outrigger spars

hoe — a paddle or to paddle

huli — capsize the canoe

paddles set/reach out/ready – a call to lift paddles to the set position, ready to start paddling.

Ho’omakaukau — paddles set.

hit/go/paddle/ho — start paddling

hut – a call to change paddling sides. After a hut one more complete stroke is performed and all paddlers change their paddling side.

paddles up/let her run — a call to stop paddling. Paddles up may also be used by some steerers as a paddles set call.

timing — a call for all paddlers to focus on the timing of their stroke to ensure it follows the seat in front.

J/Draw — a draw stroke by seat 1 or 2 to pull the canoe left or right.

uni — a turning call to seat one to poke their paddle on the right to turn the canoe left.

kahe — a turning call for a J/Draw stroke.

clear — a call usually by seat 1 to the steerer indicating the front of the canoe is clear and it is safe to go left/right.

block— a call usually by seat 1 to the steerer indicating the front of the canoe is not clear.

back paddle — a call to paddle backward to reverse the canoe.