Canoes used for states

Should states continue to use traditional Koa canoes which vary in many designs, or convert to using a more modern canoe and use a single design such as a mirage or lightning as the designated racer like world sprints?

Submitted by naked on Thu, 06/16/2011 - 10:52pm



Some would like a 'designated racer' so as to have a 'level playing field'. The cultural aspect of designing and constructing Hawaiian outrigger canoes will suffer as it has suffered since implementing hull specifications that promote fishing and baggage canoes. We need to be racing 'racing canoes', while not stifling the kalai wa'a and his culture. If we continue to whittle away at the cultural components of this sport, the day will come when this sport will have no culture.


#1 Fri, 06/17/2011 - 6:38am


Bottom line: Supposed to be about who has the best crew, not the best canoe. World sprints has it right.


#2 Fri, 06/17/2011 - 11:48am


World Sprints is a different animal. We are Hawaii, and we have a responsibility to pass on a culture.


#3 Fri, 06/17/2011 - 6:55pm


Culture has always been passed in stories and history. until stories and books go away im pretty sure the culture will be passed down no matter what boats we race


#4 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 6:21am


Don't use Koas in States? Really? It's an aesthetic thing for me. There's nothing like that feeling of getting in one of those beautiful canoes! There's definitely something there worth preserving. The best crews win anyways. All of the top clubs have good Koa racers.


#5 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 7:12am


There are many venues to participate in, when it comes to paddling.

IMO we are the lucky ones in the sport here in Hawaii getting to do what many don't, race in Koa canoes, and if you like to race in other kinds of canoes you can do that too.

I say go out enjoy the experience, paddling isn't about winning a medal and the boat doesn't make the paddler. People get so wrapped up in the canoe thing, they miss the true meaning of why we paddle.

I've seen plenty crews have great races cause they work together as a unit, the canoe was the vessel to perpetuate the cultural aspect of becoming one and working in harmony with each other.

We should always respect the Koa, if you think you don't do well because the wa'a is "not good" or there should be only "one" kind of wa'a to race in, I think misses the point of why we paddle.

Training hard and learning to blend is key, if you think it's the boat you already lost the race.

Just my opinion. Gotta go race KOA now. A Hui Ho!!!


#6 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 7:24am


The centerpiece of this sport is the outrigger canoe. Not the fiberglass, molded, just-like-every-other-one-out-there canoe, but the unique hand-made wa'a that was born from an idea in a builder's mind. If you think the sport's about you - the paddler - then you're too wrapped up in yourself.

There's a reason all those koa canoes are treated the way they are - they're the vessel by which the Polynesian culture has survived. Much more valuable than a printed book or story, they are the living embodiment of an art and a skill that perpetuated an entire race of people.

There's room for all the Lightnings and Mirages out there, but we shouldn't be talking about replacing the koa canoes with them. We should be trying to figure out how to encourage every paddler out there to discover what the Wa'a or Va'a or Waka, (...etc.) is really about.


#7 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 7:48am


Mahalo Bill for your mana'o!
It's a shame that some people think that books and stories is sufficient, and actually living and partaking the culture gets passed down as getting in the way of progress.
Just to be clear folks, progress DOES NOT need to take away from culture. There is clearly two ways to go about it, lets not go with the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" way of thinking.


#8 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 8:01am


I love composite canoes and other paddling craft, but somehow, there is something lacking in them, yes something missing that isn't alive or have the spirit of a koa canoe.


#9 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 11:31am


Well in this case we should get rid of all double bends and tow fishing lines behind all boats

I wonder if the Tahitians feel they are losing their culture by evolving like humans


#10 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 12:02pm


I'm with Bill and Goto.

In Tahiti we have no such thing as "everybody gets the same va'a to level the field".


#11 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 12:57pm


A lot has been said more eloquently than I could ever put it in defense of open designs and Koa canoes.

This is an issue that gets to the heart of outrigger canoeing and evokes passionate arguments on both sides. Who is more important, the paddler or the canoe? Is this a sport or a cultural activity? Those questions are super important to our future and I don't think there are clear answers.

But I think that the argument often gets turned upside down. There is not composite open class canoes and progress on one side with Koa canoes and culture on the other. In order to perpetuate a culture you need to live it. Cultures evolve. Once a culture stops evolving then it is dead. I'm not Hawaiian and I cannot define the Hawaiian culture. But I can do my best to perpetuate and live the culture of my home. However, that doesn't mean taking a snapshot of a way of life from some point in the past and claiming that that is it. I think that living it means letting it progress. Letting it absorb other cultures and ways of life while perpetuating its inherent and unique qualities. Such as Aloha, Pono, and Malama Ka 'Aina. Those are core values which should be perpetuated, but it doesn't mean that we should live within the confines of other aspects of ancient Hawaiian culture such as the 'Ai Kapu.

We can apply the exact same concept to the canoe. The Wa'a is what makes paddling special. But we can't take a snapshot of a Wa'a from 50 years ago and claim that those are the limits of the canoe. There are inherent aspects of a Wa'a which make it a Wa'a, but we are not confined to the matrix of a log anymore. However, in Hawai'i the outrigger canoe is rooted in the Koa canoe. So I think that Koa canoes have to continue to be embraced, perpetuated, and raced. If we lose the Koa, then we lose a huge part of the culture of the canoe.

In the same vein, while I believe that there is a place for paddlers to compete equally (World Sprints, Olympics, etc), restrictions on design are a hinderance to the cultural evolution of the canoe. What makes States magical is the power of the Koa canoes there. I was told once that when you're in a Koa, you're paddling with all the ancestors that came before you and all that will come after. It's beliefs like that give the Koa its power. If they were all carbon copies of each other, I believe that they would lose much of that power.

So, like a lot of people who posted before me; I believe that tradition, evolution, culture, and Koa canoes are all on the same side. Tradition should not be confused with spec canoes.


#12 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 2:14pm


I just re-read my post and I think I'm beginning to sound like a preachy broken record. Sorry about that, it's a bad habit of mine.


#13 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 2:17pm


Lokahi Canoe Club's Ka'io is an awesome koa. there is definitely soul in that boat and it has the speed to prove it. she looks nothing like any other koa canoe but with a fast crew paddling her she took plenty of state medals. the mana in that boat is awesome. i know the man who built and rebuilt her. he put his heart, sweat, and soul into that canoe and it shows.

the Kapa'a is an awesome composite boat. there is definitely soul in that boat and it has the speed to prove it. she looks nothing like any other canoe but with a fast crew paddling her she has placed highly in plenty of non state races. the mana in that boat is awesome. i know the men who built her. we put our hearts, sweat, and souls into that canoe and it shows.

is there a similarity here?

heart, sweat, and souls. not names, races, and materials.


#14 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 3:43pm


I agree, 9er, they both get mana, but of course there is something extra special about a koa canoe. Like Luke said, there's room for everything, and regatta season is primarily the time and place for Koa canoes. If you're totally into the equal boats thing, there's always World's, right?


#15 Sat, 06/18/2011 - 5:09pm


To to make a small point World Sprints, even though they use the same canoe, is not a perfectly fair and equal race.

In fact the last several World Sprints have had wild variations in lanes, winds, and currents. Which I know still make a few coaches and paddlers say "I would have had gold but........"

Of course you have travel issues and home field advantage.

Do we go to the extreme and say every paddler has to have the same type of paddle?

So the perfect, fair race will never happen.


#16 Mon, 06/20/2011 - 5:17am


I agree koa canoes are great for regatta but we should do everything we can to make these boats go as fast as possible (puffy AMA??)

distance is were the unlimited shine of course


#17 Mon, 06/20/2011 - 6:35am


Koa outriggers can go faster in State regattas if hull design restrictions were lifted. They already do here on the Big Island where we do not require OCHRA design limitations other than a 400lb. minimum weight.

Koa outriggers can also be more affordable by building strip koa canoes. Our ancestors did. It's called a wa'a humu.


#18 Mon, 06/20/2011 - 7:11am


You are a member of a small club with limited resources, and you paddle out to the starting line in States in an older koa that turns with some difficulty. You are going against several similar crews from large clubs who are sitting there in modernized, renovated koa canoes. Mana isn't going to be of much help here. Level playing field - not!

Nappy, who is definitely old school in most things, happens to be a big proponent of the World Sprints approach for State competition, and his common sense approach sure makes sense to me. Koas for regatta season keep us in tune with the cultural and traditional aspects. Inequities due to canoes will not generally keep a States-caliber crew from qualifying. Then when it comes to settling the issue of who has the best crew in States, everyone paddles the same boat.


#19 Tue, 06/21/2011 - 7:46am


a bigger club and money doesn't always equate to having a better or faster canoe. Don't have the money to pay someone to renovate your "older" canoe....learn how to do it...invest the time in yourself and as a club...it's your culture...can't go wrong learning and perpetuating the culture.

Mana isn't meant to use for winning a race....the koa canoe is a vessel for you to tap into mana...repeating the same physical actions of what your ancestors did helps you make that spiritual connection. Mana give you strength when you have none...lets you know your ancestors are with you. Win, Lose... it doesn't matter...you still got to make that connection to your forefathers. That's what a koa canoe does. Maybe that's what States is all about.
Sitting in a fiberglass canoe....you don't really get to think about that...as paddlers we worry too much about winning.

I personally think that sometimes traditional canoes can be "difficult"...because their paddlers think that they have an inferior canoe. You can think it...just don't say it (i'd still refrain from thinking it though). Remember a living thing had to be killed to make that canoe...that's was the tree's destiny.


#20 Tue, 06/21/2011 - 9:08am


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