Outrigger Canoeing in Hawaii – Insights from a Paddler

Go Visit Hawaii is blessed with some talented, and may I add, extremely cool readers. One such reader is Oahu resident Monica Salter. Guess what she does for fun and exercise? She’s a member of an outrigger canoe club that competes in races. She and her team, Outrigger Canoe Club,  recently competed in the “Olympics of paddling”, the Molokai to Oahu Crossing – a challenging 41-mile distance. Her team finished 5th out of 87 boats with a time of 5 hours and 47 minutes. Can you imagine paddling those rough waves for that long?  Isn’t that impressive?

OCC_Molokai 2
Team Outrigger Canoe Club on Molokai to Oahu Crossing. Monica is wearing a white hat and is in the third seat.

I was really curious about what it takes to race outrigger canoes and Monica was nice enough to answer my questions. Here’s are some of the highlights of what she shared:

    We begin training in May and regatta races (i.e. sprinting races) start in June. The distance is from ½ mile to 1.5 miles depending on the division you race. They have age group divisions and then novice divisions (for new paddlers) and then open races for more advanced paddlers. Every weekend crews paddle in races and the sprint season ends with State championships, this year in Hilo Bay on the Big Island. Long distance season starts after this in August.

    Women are allowed 10 people per crew and men can have 9. There are 6 seats in a boat so we have an escort boat and do water changes mid-race. This means the escort boat will speed ahead of the canoe and drop 2-3 people in the water. The canoe will paddle up to the people treading water and 2-3 people will jump out on one side and then the incoming fresh paddlers climb in on the other.

    Hawaii’s waters can be quite rough at times and definitely not suited for a canoe full of novice paddlers. So I asked Monica for her suggestions for how a visitor might get a taste for paddling. Monica recommended Waikiki Beach Services on Oahu. She says that a professional steersman sits in the back plus one other strong paddler and they’ll take out a group of four people to catch some sun and surf. Monica added, “This is a great way [for a visitor] to get a taste of the sport and see Waikiki from a new perspective.” Sounds like fun to me!

Mahalo to Monica for sharing her insights, photos and advice with us!

4 comments
  1. Finally an article of recognition which this sport deserves!
    To me it is unimaginable to paddle from one island to another in a small boat in the middle of the ocean change seats and be in a hurry to get to the finish line first.For hours….. with zero comfort.
    Thank you for this enjoyable, refreshing article.

    PS. : I have never paddle in my life and probably never will, my admiration for the outrigger sport, is honest and pure.

    1. Hi Yana – thanks for the nice feedback. I’m glad you liked this article. These competitive paddlers have to be super fit and great endurance to do what that do.

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