It was a picture perfect day to experience traditional Hawaiian canoeing on Hanalei Bay over the Fourth of July weekend.
We’d heard about the opportunity to paddle a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe from several acquaintances in the Hanalei area who are enthusiastic members of the Hanalei Canoe Club. The club’s annual Tahiti Fete is a held adjacent to Hanalei Bay’s Pier, allowing amateurs (like ourselves) aged 8 to 80 to compete in racing heats, or take a leisurely paddle around the bay in traditional Hawaiian outrigger.
We arrived at Hanalei Beach Park for our day of Hawaiian canoeing fairly early in the morning. Things were in full swing. Hanalei Canoe Club members had set up a group of tents to sell merchandise, serve food and organize the various activities.
Colorful traditional Hawaiian dress was the order of the day; both males and females were adorned with beautiful leis and greenery, bright sarongs, bikinis and board shorts. It’s easy to spot Hanalei Canoe Club members in their bright yellow logo garb, too.
We were excited to paddle with a diverse group (and glad we didn’t look like the oldest ones in our 12 person canoe) of youngsters, moms and dads, and experienced paddlers. Hanalei Canoe Club has a storied history since its inception in 1973, paddling in events as far away as Tahiti, Australia, Western Samoa, California, New York and even the Swan Boat Races in Thailand. The club’s fleet of canoes is a matter of pride, too, and includes a traditional Hawaiian koa wood outrigger for open ocean racing, an additional koa canoe which was a first place win in an Oahu to Kauai race, as well as regular fiberglass canoes in six and twelve person formations. Hanalei Canoe Club members incorporate traditional Hawaiian songs, and have their own traditional Hawaiian chant as part of the club experience.
The outriggers were beached close to the famous Hanalei Pier, and the sense of community extended to keiki (children) who swarmed to assist whenever it was time to launch. The kids were so joyous, laughing and good-naturedly competing for the honor of shoving off, and then swimming out behind each set of paddlers. It was easy to imagine this scene playing out over the thousands of years Tahitians and other Polynesian travelers have explored and migrated throughout the Pacific. (Click here if you can’t see the video).
Here’s another video I shot from the pier so you can see how long these beautiful canoes are. I can’t imagine paddling thousands of miles across the open ocean in one, though. Not a lot of room!
It was an easy matter to get situated in the canoe, and the Hawaiian canoeing paddle technique is virtually the same as we know from freshwater paddling. The switching of sides and each stroke is done in unison, with the individuals at the rear in charge of steering. There is also a team member who “calls” the switching as you can see in the following video (click here for external link).
Here’s the view I had for traditional Hawaiian canoeing, heading out. The mom in front of me and her young daughter paddled like champs!
It is impossible to describe the stunningly beautiful aqua of the water, and the vivid cerulean of the sky. Pete’s comment was, “How can anyone’s favorite color not be blue?”
Strong paddlers make for winning teams! All too soon our paddle around the bay began to loop back toward the pier, against the wind. We were warned that it would be a little more tough going, but it didn’t seem like it. Maybe because the club member paddlers were working harder than we were? I handed the camera back to Pete so he could get a shot. Notice the guys on the right with their muscles. That’s me in red, socializing just a bit. Notice they’re paying no attention! 🙂
Coming into shore was easy. Our team leader had us back-paddle, turning the canoe as it easily beached for the next group to head out. All in all, a marvelous day for Hawaiian canoeing on lovely Hanalei Bay, with the iconic Pier as home base. Aloha!
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