AS THE WEATHER warms and light dawns earlier, here in Marin, it’s not unusual to spy a six-person canoe gliding across our waterways. Six-man and -woman teams can be seen warming up in the dappled morn- ing light (and also in the fading evening light), and anyone close enough might hear a continual “hut, hike, ho” as a team pulls a 40-foot boat through the glassy water. Considered the state sport of Hawaii, outrigger canoeing has steadily grown more popular nationwide over the past few decades, in both recreational
and competitive forms, including in Marin.
Who paddles outrigger canoes? Water-loving men, women and kids are drawn to this sport. Many clubs have special
divisions for keikis ( 18 and younger), masters (under 40) and senior masters ( 50 and older). Benefits include being on
the water, staying active and being part of a team. In 30 minutes, a paddler might complete 1,500 strokes. The motion
of leaning forward and pulling the paddle through the water makes for an extreme workout, especially for the lats and
core, and burns as much as 700 calories an hour. Outrigger canoeing brings paddling into the realm of team sport, as
there’s regularly scheduled practice with fellow paddlers. It “forces you to keep your practice time and not find excuses,”
says Steve Wegner from He’e Nalu men’s team. “You don’t want to be the guy to let down the team.” The fellowship in
outrigger is hard to describe: it’s intense, yet the joy of feeling the canoe moving forward in a synchronized manner is
contagious. Paddlers here in Marin range from beginners to veterans with two decades under their beltless board shorts.
Besides the shorts, gear includes UV shirts, hats and shorts — all waterproof.
Outrigger canoeing is an ever-popular sport in Marin.
BY GEOFF JAMES • PHOTOS BY TODD PICKERING