Outrigger Paddling: Huli drills in the rain
Outrigger canoe racing is one of the fastest growing water sports on
the Pacific Coast. Many of my paddling friends have paddled
outrigger canoes. My friend Craig Brown has pretty well quit the
sprint racing of dragon boats, for the long distance paddling of
outriggers. There are many clubs in Vancouver, Gibsons BC,
Okanagan Lake, Washington, Oregon, California and of course Hawaii.
The Hawaiian style canoes featued in Hawaii 5-0 opening credits are called outrigger canoes, also known as OC-6
canoes. Dragon Zone has brought in 2 six person outriggers. I have paddled them out at the Lotus Sports Club from
Burnaby's Barnet Marine Park in years past, and I have also paddled
OC-1 and OC-2 from False Creek Racing Canoe Club on Granville
Island. To make sure people are properly trained to use these
boats, Dragon Zone is asking its members to take orientation
courses. I signed up for this course before I hurt my pinkie
I went out this morning for my outrigger canoe
orientation. It was lightly raining. I drove to Safeway and
bought waterproof bandages and a Starbucks coffee. I had put on
about 8 waterproof bandages, hoping it would help keep my finger and
stitches dry. The weather was cold and drizzly. The other four people were
wearing shorts, knowing they would get wet. I wore my running
tights, thermal long-sleeved undershirt, thermal Sugoi long sleeved
biking shirt + my paddling jacket. I stayed warmer thany they
did. Good choice.
Our instructor Darby gave us an orientation identifying the
parts of the OC-6 such as the ama (pontoon), the aku (pontoon brace),
the moku (end of the pontoon brace attached to the canoe) – belonging
to a tradition of Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe tradition. Because it was so c-o-l-d, we moved back to the Dragon Zone clubhouse to stay
warm, and Darby filled us in and described what to do for
a huli drill.
All canoes can be tippy. Outrigger canoes were designed to handle
the surf in Hawaii. If an outrigger canoe tips over it is called
a huli. Every outrigger paddler needs to know how to right the
canoe in the water, so they can get back in and get back to paddling.
We paddled from Dragon Zone, at the Southeast corner of False Creek, beside Science World. And we paddled all the way out to
English Bay – around the green and red harbour buoys marking the
entrance to False Creek (past Vanier Park and Kits Beach). It was the
longest non-stop paddle I had done in a while…
We took a
rest once west of the Cambie St. Bridge, a 2nd rest before the
Granville St. Bridge, then a 3rd rest beneath the Burrard Bridge. then
a l-o-n-g paddle out to English Bay harbour buoy markers, then all the
way back into East side of Granville Island.
We did our huli
drills just west of Cambie Bridge. We all leaned over to the right
side… knowing we would soon be in the cold False Creek water.
Flip! Everything was wet and cold, as I tumbled into the water in
full clothing. I held onto my paddle and surfaced. I swam
out and went to the front of the boat. Darby called out
“One!” I yelled, as each of us counted down our seat numbers. The
paddlers from seats 3 and 4 climbed onto the aku then straddled on top
of the upside down canoe. They stood on the moku, reached across
the upside down canoe hull to grab the aku. On Darby's cue, they
leaned backwards to pull the canoe over right side up. I swam
over beside seat one, as seats 3 and 4 climbed into the boat and
started bailing the boat. End of huli drill #1.
Next, I climbed into seat 3, and the former seat 2 paddler climbed into
seat 4. It would now be our turn to help right the canoe for
huli drill #2. Again we leaned to the right side, anticipating
the cold plunge into the water. Into the water we fell… much
less a shock this time. I bobbed up between the akus and the ama,
beside the canoe. I swam up under the aku, then remembered I had
to climb up onto it. The other paddler was already straddling the
upside down canoe hull. I climbed up, straddled the canoe hull,
then we both stood on the moku, leaned over to grab the aku… and
leaned back to pull the aku up into the air.
Flip! The canoe rolled over and fell right-side up. I
fell back into the water. To climb into the boat, I
scissor-kicked my legs and
simultaneously lifted myself up with my arms, launching myself out of
the water like a seal onto the gunwale of
the canoe. Next job – bail out the water from the canoe.
Seats 3 (me) and 4 bailed the canoe, while seats 2 and 5 climbed into
the canoe. Seat 3 started bailing the canoe too. Seats 1, 5
climbed into the canoe and started paddling us back to dock. Half
the water was out, and seat 2 started paddling.
Climbing out of the canoe at the end of the practice, we could feel the
cold bite of the breeze. Glad I had my running tights on.
Dripping wet, we had a debriefing with our instructor. We were
cold, we were wet, but we were glad we'd had this experience. Now
we can confidently go outrigger paddling, knowing that if we ever flip
the boat in a huli, we know what to do.
Wow! We paddled all the way out to English Bay, did 2 huli
drills, then paddled non-stop back to Dragon Zone – while bailing the