It was great to be back in an OC-6 outrigger again. The water of Burrard Inlet / Indian Arm is SO MUCH cleaner than False Creek. It was a beautiful day for paddling – overcast but no rain.
My buddy Craig Brown had wanted to introduce paddlers from the Gung Haggis Fat Choy and Centre for Spiritual Living team dragon boat teams. We also invited friends of the teams and former paddlers. We had enough people to take out 4 six person outrigger canoes.
Outrigger paddling is a good way to balance a hard paddling dragon boat season. With outrigger paddling, you can padde on both sides since everybody sits one behind the other in a row. Outrigger races can be as short as 10 minutes and as long as 6 hours. Most in the Vancouver area are 1 to 2 hour races.
Three members of the Lotus Sports Club came out to help us steer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered who they were! Grace Morrisette was my first dragon boat coach back in 1993, when I paddled as a spare with the Hamazaki-Wong sponsored Headliners. We won the inaugural Novice division that year… Steve Pith, paddled with E-One Moli Energy when I coached that team in 2000 and 2001. Steve came out in a solo outrigger and demonstrated paddling technique for our first timers. Cindy, I have met at the various Lotus regattas over the years. The great connection is that she is also involved with Girl Guides and had connected with one of my former paddlers about starting a dragon boat team for Girl Guides.
Going out with the Lotus group was a great cultural learning experience. Our dragon boat paddlers learned how the Hawaiian culture developed outrigger canoeing and why the term “huli” doesn't mean a form of dancing. “Huli” is when your boat flips over. The “Ama” is the pontoon on the left side of the boat. And Hawaiians love the outrigger teams that travel to Hawaii for races, because they graciously thank you for helping to develop and preserve their sport and culture around the world.
At the Lotus Clubhouse at Barnet Marine Park, we gazed at all the trophies from paddling races and regattas from Vancouver, Portland and Hawaii. We looked at all the pictures from different events and felt excited for the future paddling possibilities for the coming years.
Oh the paddling!
The event was created simply to have fun and give people a chance to try outrigger paddling, so we didn't dwell on a lot of paddling technique lessons. Most everybody had already paddled in dragon boats this season except for the two newcomers in my boat.
We took off pretty well. Nobody seemed to have any balancing problems. Nobody freaked out about tipping. We reminded people to watch the lead stroke and to stay in time… and that was it! Oh, and learning to say the words, “Hike, Hut, Ho” which signify when everybody follows the lead stroke to switch sides. We practiced this a few times, and pretty soon everybody was looking like that had paddled outrigger all season!
After taking a break with all four canoes together. Two of us started heading towards Twin Islands, before realizing that the other two boats had headed back to the club house. Determined not to be the last boat back for the doughnuts and coffee, we brought our boats around and headed back as well. Our group always had a tendency to keep a fast rate. Our lead stroke, Kristine, had paddled a lot of dragon boat teams with me over the years, and I had to keep reminding her to bring the rate down. We finally did a very good job slowing down the pace, so everybody got more water on their paddle. Every stroke became effortless and we easily caught and passed the boat in front of us.
Definitely a experience every dragon boat paddler should try. Everybody was just as excited and enthusiastic as when we started our excursion, but now filled with a “good tired” – the kind that says… “This was a good thing!”