Many think of surfing as the traditional sport of Hawaii, and certainly it is one of the sports that originated in Hawaii and has caught on worldwide, but it is not the only one! Outrigger canoe racing also had its origins in the islands, and is now the state sport of Hawaii. For the early Hawaiian people, the ocean was their lifeblood and canoes were their main means of transportation. Canoe racing was a way for them to hone their skills and engage in healthy competition, but after the arrival of the missionaries these races were “outlawed” for many years. King Kalakaua brought the cultural tradition back in the early 1900’s. It caught on quickly and continues to be a popular sport in Hawaii, and around the world.
While the canoes come in different sizes, all have an outrigger (support float) fastened to one or both sides of the hull. In racing, paddlers work as a team with one person as the designated stoker, to keep the pace, one at the rear as the steersman, and the rest working in sync as paddlers. The original outrigger canoes of the Hawaiians were traditionally made of Koa and were very heavy, but today’s racing versions are made of lightweight materials and are designed for speed. Young and old love the sport of canoe racing and, here in Hawaii, it is even an interscholastic high school sport.
While some races are sprints of speed, some are about endurance. The Molokai Hoe, the longest running annual team sporting event in Hawaii, is one of the endurance races. It will be taking place this year on October 13th. It begins on the west end of the island of Molokai around 8am, crossing the channel to Oahu, and ending at Duke’s Beach in Waikiki, in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, at approximately 12:30-1pm. If you are visiting in Hawaii, you might want to be there to watch the exciting finish of this grueling and dangerous race. Even if you can’t catch this particular event, you can often see the teams out practicing at numerous beaches around Oahu, and, if you are adventurous, you can even give paddling one of these outriggers a try! Either way, we are sure you will enjoy how these beautiful canoes speed over the waves, giving us a glimpse back to old Hawaii days! To find out more about ocean sports and activities, and places to go if you want to try paddling yourself visit the Seek Spot by Be Our Guest Directory.