Paddling Outrigger Canoe in Hawaii

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, outdoor, nature and water
Paddling from Sentosa, Beautiful but no waves
Credit @SingaporePaddleClub Facebook

Singapore waters are warm all-year-round, so even on Christmas day we can paddle. However, Singapore lacks waves (except for those generated by the occasional ferry passing by). I love the rush from surfing waves — you feel like you’re flying.

So a year ago, my partner asked for an OC paddling vacation to surf waves.  There are OC clinics and camps, but they really don’t suit us. We don’t like camps because of our work schedules: we need a few hours each day and wi-fi to keep up. An Internet search led me to someone who rents outrigger canoes: Jim Foti in Hawaii. A few emails back-and-forth with Jim and we were set to paddle around Kailua / Lanikai beach in Honolulu.

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, mountain, outdoor, water and nature
Jim Foti of http://fotibros.com/
Credit: Facebook, @JoeyJim.FotiOhana

Jim rented us his own personal OC2 that he races in. It’s super-light and the ama likes to float in the air. We’re use to our club OCs where our left butts sit an inch lower than our right –  it was wonderful to be sitting completely neutral. It did take some getting used to – in the beginning we hulie’d a few times in completely flat water! It also had dual steering, which is a great feature!

Our beautiful OC2 rental for a week
Rates and info at www.fotibros.com/

We spent a perfect week paddling around Lanikai Beach in Hawaii. When the swells were coming from the east at 30 knots (according to https://www.windfinder.com), we could ride pretty consistent waves at Flat Rock. We were regularly catching waves — my Garmin clocked our speeds at >20 km / hr.

Jim took us out during one of these rough days, and as we caught a *big* wave, I could hear him calling in a slightly higher-pitched voice “keep the boat straight”. I know he was thinking we could wipe out. A lesson from Jim: if the waves are crashing on you, keep the boat straight and you won’t wipe out.

Another time, I made the mistake of looking back and saw a large 6-foot wave crashing behind us. At first frozen and paralyzed with fear like Lot’s wife, I then quickly turned my head back to the front and paddled like a mad man while my partner screamed “We’re either on it (this wave) or we’re not!” with fear in his voice. I was uselessly paddling air, but thankfully we were on it.

It’s hilarious to hear grown strong men call out in high-pitched voices, but I probably wouldn’t have found it funny if we had wiped out. Thankfully, we never did.

We never wiped out because if the waves were too fast, they’d just go under us. And we learned from Jim to keep the boat perfectly straight so if the wave did break on us, we’d just ride it out.

We also learned to bleed boat speed when we were too fast on the wave by “buttering the bread” where we put our blades down on the right side. It’s useful for also stabilizing the boat (smallcraft and OC6) if the ama pops up. My instinct is to always lean left on the ama, so I’ll still have to work on this.

Pueo by WOO, photo by Pierre Frechou
“Buttering the bread”: Ama up, paddle in the water
Credit: https://www.woo-outrigger.com

The other tip we learned is that when going into the waves, go straight in but to soften the landing you can steer off it to the left and right. That made it a less bumpy ride.

For the super-advanced huge waves, the person at the front of the boat can jump off and hold onto the ama as the boat dives into the waves. (We never did it.)

OC is really part of Hawaiian culture. In Kailua, you see painting of outrigger canoes on the walls of restaurants, and on the mailboxes of residents.  We paddled up one of the channels and saw houses with their quite a number of OCs (and even an OC6!) in their own backyard. We also shopped at Island Paddler, which caters to paddlers, and discovered Excel, a brand Excel specific for paddlers.

Outrigger paddle in a deli

We had a perfect week out in Hawaii. We spent ~2 hours a day paddling, the rest of the day eating, working, and bumming around. Our vacations are usually only 4 days, but we wanted to ensure we would have good weather during our time out there so we spent a full week. This actually turned out to be a good decision because when we first got there, there were large swells coming from the East, but when we left it was calm and hard to find waves. Our long vacation time gave us a good sampling of the weather.