OUTRIGGER CANOE RACING IN HAWAII
Outrigger canoe racing, also known as regatta racing, is Hawaii’s official team sport, with thousands of paddlers (from keiki to kupuna), out on the ocean practicing or racing for much of the year.
In ancient Hawaii, the canoe was believed to be a living creation, was given a name and treated with great respect, like a revered member of the community. The naming tradition and canoes are still blessed before they are first used. Canoe racing was a popular pastime, with men wagering their possessions and even their wives on their favorite team.
While the official regatta season is in June and July, each with approximately 40 events from a one-fourth mile to one-and-one-half miles in length, the biggest events are held toward the end of August or early September through October, with the inter-island races Na Wahine O Ke Kai and Molokai Hoe.
Teams are composed of paddlers of local and even international origins. Heads up! If surf is high, it is not unusual to see a canoe huli (turn over) after crashing into a wave.
In the Islands
Oahu: The two most prestigious long-distance canoe races in the world take place in September and October. Both are 41-mile races across the channel between the islands of Molokai and Oahu. Na Wahine O Ke Kai is for female paddlers, followed two weeks later by the Molokai Hoe for men.
Molokai: See Na Wahine O Ke Kai and the Molokai Hoe above.
Hawaii, Big Island: The world’s longest canoe race is the Queen Liliuokalani Race, taking place annually for five days, Thursday to Monday, Labor Day Weekend near the late Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday.
Kauai: The Kauai Channel Race is an annual challenge from Kaneohe, on Oahu’s east shore, to Nawiliwili, Kauai, which is followed by an awards dinner and dance party.
Maui: The Kihei Canoe Club hosts the main regatta events on Maui, especially between the months of May through July, with a visitors’ paddling program that also includes an introduction to Hawaiian culture.
Photos by HCRA