About The Sport

the sport

History of the Sport

The outrigger canoe is descended from the Polynesian seafaring tradition. The canoe was made originally of wood and would seat a varying number of people. A stabilizer (the object that gives the outrigger canoe its namesake) is lashed to the side of the canoe giving the canoe the added stability needed to navigate through rough ocean conditions. These boats were traditionally used as a primary means of settling and inhabiting the islands of Southeast Asia, Polynesia and the Pacific and would continue to serve as the only means of transportation of people and goods around the Pacific Ocean for thousands of years.

This traditional form of transportation has since evolved into a racing and endurance sport in modern times. Races in outrigger canoes seating one person, two people and teams of six people are common in the Pacific Rim and beyond. The sport is no longer limited to the Pacific with outrigger canoes becoming common place near any body of water all over the world. Regardless of the location, the sport continues to emphasize bravery, teamwork and respect for Polynesian traditions. New York Outrigger is proud to introduce this sport to the island of Manhattan, New York City and the Tri-State area.

Design of the Canoe

The canoes (the wa’a) are approximately forty five feet long. Historically of wood construction, the modern canoes are made of glass-reinforced plastic and weighing in at under four hundred pounds. A long, thin stabilizer also made of reinforced plastic (the ama) is lashed to the port side of the main hull by wood struts (the iakos). It is this outrigger assembly that gives the canoe its distinctive look and stability. Rated as ocean-going vessels, the ability for the outrigger canoe to maneuver through rough ocean waves is dependent on the ability and strength of the six paddlers powering it.

The boats seat six paddlers. Each paddler has a distinctive role but all work in unison to move the boat smoothly, quickly and efficiently. The person sitting in the front in seat one is called the stroke. They set the pace for the rest of the crew to follow. Seats two and four, sitting just in front of the wood iakos that connect the ama to the canoe, have the responsibility of being aware of the surrounding conditions and keeping the outrigger canoe stable. Every other person paddles on alternating sides, ie) if seats one, three and five are paddling on the left, seats two, four and six are paddling on the right to keep the boat balanced. Seat three calls changes to let everyone know to switch sides. Seat five provides additional power needed to move the boat and aids the steersperson in complicated maneuvers. Seat six is the steersperson and captain of the crew. Just like the ancient Polynesians, a good crew requires strength, stamina, teamwork and skill to survive the rough ocean waters.

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