Why you need to try outrigger canoeing

If you’re into water sports you’ve probably tried kayaking or canoeing. You might have even attempted to ride a stand-up paddleboard. Well, there’s another paddle sport that’s quickly becoming a hit across Southern California and elsewhere and that’s Hawaiian outrigger canoeing.

In the 1960s, when Al Ching first came to California from Hawaii there were only a handful of canoe clubs. Ching founded the Lanakila Outrigger Canoe Club in Redondo Beach in 1970. Now, the club membership has swelled to more than 300 people becoming one of the largest clubs on the mainland.

Never before has Ching seen such interest in the ancient sport of outrigger canoeing, he told The Beach Reporter newspaper.

“It just gets bigger and bigger,” Ching said,

Four decades ago, outrigger canoeing was virtually a thing of the past. With the art form dying and people preferring more modern forms of recreation, the sport nearly became nonexistent until beginning a resurgence about 20 years ago. Today, there are dozens of outrigger clubs through Southern California.

What makes outrigger canoeing so fun?

For one thing, it’s capable for all ages. While anyone can hop into a canoe and get going, however, it does take considerable skill and training to truly become one of the best.

There are six-person boats, double boats and single boats, so outrigger canoeing really fits all preferences, whether you want to tackle the ocean by yourself, with a partner or as part of a group. There are also races to enter, which takes the sport to a whole new level.

What do you need?

All you truly need to get started in outrigger canoeing is a little bit of money to join a club and actually live near someplace where boats are available. Barring those two things, you can always purchase your own outrigger and go from there. Don’t forget the paddle.

Modern designs

While the original Hawaiian canoes were made out of hollowed out tree logs, today’s canoes are made out of extremely light weight material, making getting in and out of the water a breeze. The main outrigger has not changed much since the early days when in 1779 Captian Cook arrived in Kealakekua Bay and reported seeing 1,500 canoes. The one thing to remember when paddling one, however, is that you can only lean heavy to one side. Lean the other way and boat tips over.

Why else are they fun?

As opposed to a lot of other forms of paddling, outrigger canoes are actually fast, which means they tear up the water with ease. Feel the ocean glide underneath as your paddle breaks the surface with each stroke and you get taken back to another era.

Photo credit: US Air Force