Sunday, August 24, 2008

Molokai Hoe Training

I have been asked by the founders of this blog to participate in its content by chronicling my training and experiences as I prepare for the World Championships of Outrigger Canoe Racing, also known as Molokai Hoe. The race will take place on October 12th, and will consist of 9 men, 1 outrigger canoe (which seats 6 men at a time) and a 42 mile span of ocean that separates the Hawaiian Island of Molo'kai from the capital island of O'ahu, more specifically the city of Honolulu. I personally find it difficult to believe that a story recording my experience in such an esoteric sport would be interesting to anyone who hasn't experienced the sport. However, as I was asked to do so, I have no problem providing the information and allowing you to make up your own mind.

For those who have no experience with an outrigger canoe, it may be pertinent to start with a short history of the sport and the technical aspects of the canoe itself, as many of the terms are Polynesian in origin and may not be familiar to the casual observer. First, the canoe itself is roughly 40 feet long, weighing no less then 400 lbs. It seats 6 people evenly spaced down the length of the boat. The Steersman sit in the back, the man in the first seat is called the stroker. He sets the pace for everyone else, and I believe it is the most difficult position in the boat. Whoever sits in seat 3 is the "Caller" and calls the "changes." The calling is necessary, as each paddler can only stroke on one side of the canoe at a time, and thus the Caller signals when the entire crew is to change sides, and continue to paddle. Seats 1-5 each stagger on which side they paddle, and the Steersman, will switch at will, so as to most effectively steer the canoe. Connected to the canoe, by two wooden struts called "Iakos" (pronounced yiakoo) is the "Ama," a 10 foot hollow piece of specifically shaped composite material which is used to ensure the boat does not constantly flip, being that it is only 2 feet wide at the center.

The outrigger canoe is considered to be the main means of transportation for all Polynesian travelers as they slowly "island hopped" from the Asian mainland thousands of years ago. The basic structure has literally gone unchanged for the past 5 millennia. The cultures whose history began with their ancestors traveling across vast spans of ocean on these canoes, are still the cultures/countries that dominate the sport, namely the Hawaiians and Tahitians.

As for me, I began racing outrigger canoes in the past year and it has become an absolute passion, to such an extent I am now dedicating over 20 hours a week to training for this one day, October 12th. This will be the content of these entries, and I hope you find them interesting enough to finish each entry....

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