Big Wave Canoe Surfing
This is an awesome clip!
4-man canoe surfing is one of the most exhilarating rides one can experience on the water and the closest thrill to solo big wave surfing on a board. I can’t help but think of Aka Hemmings, who got me on my first outrigger canoe, somehow convinced me to leave my fears on the shore and let go. Mahalo Aka you will always be in my thoughts.
Each canoe paddler takes an important role in this team sport. Riding waves takes great water and navigational skills not just from the steersman’s point of view, but in the delicate balance of keeping the canoe on the wave at a steady speed. This is essential. And when each paddler is in sync a kinetic energy harnesses the maximum potential of a wave’s energy and you are flying off nature’s natural energy and her force is awesome. My childhood friend, Kawika Ramler, (Keaukaha Canoe Club in Hilo area) said that an outrigger (va’a or wa’a) canoe team strives to become one harmonious machine, “… It’s about each individual’s power of observation, concentration, and focus. The mind needs training as much as the body… If we can’t think alike in the water how can we paddle alike? Once we leave the beach behind we become one mind, one body, until we step back on to shore…(and) we leave our egos with our slippers”. Wa’a is about team effort and like an orchestral group which is my frame of reference ( 65 – 80 people playing in sync, anticipating each other’s parts) with one conductor guiding the group like the steersman. If one member of the group steps up tempo or one lags behind and drags the beat everyone in the canoe suffers. Just like an orchestra or the process of making films. The director guides the canoe, keeps everyone on tempo, and relies on the performance of each individual crew member.
Anyway, 4-man canoeing is a bit different from the standard 6- man big wave canoe because a smaller crew has more maneuverability in larger waves because there is a shorter waterline. Fewer people, less weight, shorter canoe that can turn on a dime to avoid mishaps. Or eat it because the canoe is built wider and “wiping out” is common even amongst the most experienced of paddlers.
Canoe surfing competition is judged according to what your team of paddlers can do in the critical section of the wave (at its peak and in turns) and when the waves are small. It’s a featured sport at many of the surf contests held on the west facing shores of Oahu although not restricted just to this part of the island. Check it out near Diamond Head, at the Outrigger Canoe Club, and along beautiful Waikiki Beach. Mahalo to Johann Bouit for capturing this great footage for PacificNetwork.tv. Life is Good!
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