why do we paddle?

Why do we all paddle? (note--- this is kinda long and there is not much of a point to it, so don't read it if you're short on time) 

I'm just curious to hear what peoples reasons are for paddling and I want to organize my thoughts on the subject.
I do not think that any of us really paddle just to stay in shape. It is a lot easier to put on a pair of running shoes and do a half hour run every morning before work then it is to take three hours to shuttle cars, rig canoes, and do a run.
What about a love for competition? I know that I personally love to race, but that is not the reason that I (or, I think, anyone else) paddles. I don't have any intense drive to try and paddle faster than other people, but I still love to race. Paddling is unique in that nearly every paddler competes at some level. Why is that? Competition gives us nothing. Even the worlds fastest paddlers are relatively unknown to anyone outside of the sport (at least in Hawai'i), and are unknown to a surprising amount of people within the sport. It is not uncommon for a paddler to devote upwards of twenty hours per week to the sport (add it all up, driving time, standing around time, paddling time, cross training etc.... it adds ups), but what is the reason?
I used to think that it was because I loved the ocean. But then I went to Southern California's Inland Empire and after not paddling for a month I settled for a reservoir. Even though paddling in circles sucks, it was still the highlight of my day. It was flat, cold and polluted water, yet it was still awesome. There was nothing other than the occasional boat wake to catch, and definitely never anything to connect to. Birds often shit on me (ten times in one minute once), I would catch fishing lines on my rudder, I would have to pay astronomical rates for a boat permit and for parking, yet I still did it everyday for two or three hours. For a little while I questioned my sanity, but I don't anymore. I think that most paddlers would have done the same thing. Take away the ocean, the competition, the fun, yet we still paddle. So what is it? Just a time consuming addiction, or something more?

My only idea is that it is a form of meditation. You go out on the water and there is nothing but you and the ocean (or whatever form of water you're on). The only thoughts are on how to make the canoe go faster, there is nothing else. I think that once we all get a dose of it, we can never go back to having a normal, paddle-less life. We love competition because that is the ultimate form of paddling meditation. In a race you cannot afford to have any distracting thought. In a regatta every stroke counts, in a long distance race every wave counts, and any wandering thought can make you miss that wave or stroke. Everyone needs a period of mindlessness in their days. Nothing matters on the water, no matter what is going on in someones lives, it all is gone when they are in a canoe.

Alright--- I think that my laundry is done. Any thoughts on what it is about the sport that draws you to it?

Submitted by caveman on Mon, 01/23/2006 - 6:58pm



I do it for the CA$H.


#1 Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:23pm


R & D Usually just cannot get my mind off of how the boat and paddle are performing and what would be my next move for business.

Time alone with the ocean. Something about feeling the water moving ( o.k., energy in the water) under me and connecting with it. Next and only closest thing for me is the moment I hear my road bike tires singing over the din.

Abstract answer .... to get there.


#2 Mon, 01/23/2006 - 10:25pm


  1. For the thrill of interacting with that which is greater than and indifferent towards us -- man (or woman) vs. nature -- pitting our intelligence and instinct against the elements...
  2. Because we want to out-perform the person in the other canoe(s) (man vs. man)
  3. Because we are punishing ourselves (man vs. himself)

Sorry, too many literature courses... :)

Also, for those with deeply-rooted fear of intimacy, because it affords the opportunity to meet our social needs without actually having to have friends!


#3 Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:37pm


I started paddling on a surfboard doing the Stand Up Beach Boy thing. Got interested in a OC-1 when friends were cluing me in on how fun the downhill runs were.... Bought a Hurricane, lost 30 lbs. Sold it and bought a Pahoa.... All within a few months... Picked up a 2-man.... Then........

I sat down on my 12' Mickey Munoz Superglide Epoxy surfboard with my 48" paddle and went to play in the waves.... Next thing I know, I'm surfing everyday with my canoe paddle getting so many fun waves... I paddle everyday now and I don't even own a canoe anymore... Hehe....

Why do I paddle? Below are my answers...

Because I like to paddle into something fun...
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/paddling1.jpg

Because I like what my short paddle does for bottom turns...
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/bottom4.jpg

Because I like the serenity and intensity of it all....
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/dropping%20in...

Because leaning on the paddle in a critical section is bliss...
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/photo%201.jpg

Because now I don't have to worry about my 3 grand canoe going home in pieces...
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/dropping%20in...

I love paddling.... I just don't paddle a canoe anymore....
http://photos.imageevent.com/torturechambers/misc2/websize/scenic2.jpg


#4 Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:49pm


i have been thinking about it for a couple days and i cannot think of a reason of why i paddle i kinda just do. or maybe i just can't put the reason into words.


#5 Tue, 01/24/2006 - 9:59pm


I live on the southern side of the globe Aotearoa (New Zealand) I paddle rivers and lakes in a W6. I know not as extreme as the ocean. I enjoy long distance because it takes awhile to tune into the sound of a waka gliding on the water. You eventually see schools of fish underneath you. the sound of birds gliding just over the water. When they flap there wings the sound bounces off the water. And occasionally a fish will jump across the manu ihu.

I love competition just like eveyone else. But as you might guess I paddle for the love of it away from everything and seeing and watching what happens on the water.

Plus I just wanna go crazy cavemen styles working with 5 other guys who are just as crazy when it is frekin frezzing cold.

         "Waka ama is more than a sport it is a way of life."

#6 Wed, 01/25/2006 - 1:06pm


because it doesn't remind me of anything


#7 Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:34am


"I don't have any intense drive to try and paddle faster than other people, but I still love to race. Paddling is unique in that nearly every paddler competes at some level. Why is that? Competition gives us nothing."

What about the desire to be great at something? It doesn't have to mean beating the guy next to you, though many times it might be and it's always nice when you beat someone who's got 20lbs of muscle over you. A lot of times I think it might just be about doing your personal best. And I think it's satisfying to see yourself improve and get a lot better.

What about the satisfaction of knowing that you can paddle faster than 99.9999983% of people? That's still assuming there are still 1000 other people who are faster than you. But by any statistical measure, you could consider youself really really awesome at paddling.

Or if you think about catching bumps on a windy run, it's a pretty rewarding experience. If you paddle hard for a few strokes, woohoo, instant reward. I think that's pretty addicting and easy to do for an hour+ day after day.

But beyond these reasons I kind of think hapakid2 might be right. Can all the reasons why we paddle be described? Maybe it's more a gestalt like phenomenon -- the complete reasons for why we paddle can't be put into a list. Or maybe all these reasons -- meditation, the glide, the connection with the ocean, ...cash, etc are plainly just things that make us happy?

anyway, it's class time for me. keep on paddling while I go make the most of my currently paddle-less life. :-)


#8 Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:45am


Very well said Keizo. Pretty much hit the nail on the head for me when you wrote about catching bumps WOO-HOO.


#9 Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:28pm


I think my reasons are all the things everyone already mentioned and more. For me any day in a canoe is a good day. When I look at pictures of people on the mainland paddling in winter gear such as jackets, I think they must be crazy. But then again, if I lived on the mainland I would probably do the same thing. Lucky we live Hawaii though :)


#10 Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:56pm


Everyone who wrote hit the nail on the head, we love what we do, we love OC-1 to OC-6 and have a blast in OC-4. For me the fact that we step into liquid (To borrow a movie title) it is so fun to be on the water, weither I win or lose it is such a privilege to be doing something on the water. I love paddling and miss when I'm not there (like now at work, plus don't have an OC-1 yet!) But as for the club level it is the family (Ohana) atmosphere that is all worth it. Not to mention I don't jar my Knees or feet as in running.


#11 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:38pm


Yeah. I had the canoe loaded up today for a paddle. Got up to 50 degrees! However, the wind kicked up enough to where I gave up on paddling. Didn't want to chance a huli in 35 degree water and 25-30 mph winds.


#12 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 6:12pm


Paddle- $180
Canoe- $3000
Rash Guard- $25
Registration Dues-$55
Race Fee- $27
Water Pack- $40

The feeling of surfing 500 yards-- PRICELESS!!


#13 Fri, 01/27/2006 - 6:42pm


Caveman- you are so right, it is a meditation and the ocean is our church. Whether you're a weekend warrior or a world-class paddler it is all about the moment. For me it is also about self-improvement be it shaving a couple of minutes from last year's time, building endurance, or stepping just a little beyond my comfort zone as I paddle into bigger and bigger waves. It is the simple pleasure of surprising yourself with your own achievements.

Another reason I paddle is that the rest of Canada is covered in ice and snow while those of us on the west coast go and play in the Pacific.


#14 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 5:34pm


Isn't it ironic that we all paddle as a form of meditation etc... that it is a time for us to get away from everything, yet we all love to bicker about everything that we possibly can on this website that is devoted to paddling :)

Paddling is pure-- we are all equal when we get on the water-- it doesn't matter who supports canoes from China, who goes to other paddling websites, or who voted for whom in the last election (anyone remember that one?). None of it matters when we are out there. The magic of paddling, unfortunately, has to end once we get off the water. Then we all go back to being who we are and to having the opinions that we have. In trying to revive the spirit of paddling that we lost after we got off the water, we all log on to Ocpaddler.com. But then we go too far in the opposite direction with our use of this forum. In the end, nothing that we say here really matters, because once we are on the canoe everything else has long escaped our minds. Which part is more real then? The perfect world when we are on the canoe? Or the other world in between paddliing sessions. HA--- I probably shouldn't try to philosophize (is that a word?).

Anyway-- it just struck me as funny the difference between the reasons that we paddle and all of the recent "controversies" on this site. It is good to get heated up about an issue, and it shows that we all have a passion for paddling and care about the direction it is heading, let's just make sure that none of the arguments make their way into a canoe. We paddle because it is pure.


#15 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 9:41pm


Actually Luke, I was just too damn small for football....so I figure I try that canoeing thingy....I also do it for all the money, blinging rides and hot girls.


#16 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 10:23pm


eh i just poured my heart out for that response-- why you gotta be a wise ass for?? :) where's the purity????


#17 Tue, 01/31/2006 - 10:41pm


No shame Luke, pour that heart out! I've been meaning to post in this thread to try to balance things out.
I love paddling for many of the reasons stated above. Competition, cleansing of the ocean, exercise,etc.
I recently took a year off from paddling intending to move on in my life and take care of the 'more important things'. But after a year I couldn't do it. I had to get back into it. So I started training again and have done the last three Kanaka Ikaika races. The thing I found that I missed the most was the people in paddling.Not just my close team mates but just all the people you run into and say hi to and have short pleasant conversations with.
The sport of paddling is populated by the most wonderful people. Really good true stand-up people. There are so many people that I admire in paddling and so many reasons to admire them. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I was to discover this sport, albeit late in life. It has had a profound effect on my life.
one of the things I like the most about the paddling community is the premium put on humility.People who brag or talk trash are not tolerated. When you win a race you celebrate but you don't do it at the expense of your competitors pride or dignity. I find that to be such a rare thing these days that it seems almost old fashioned.
Anyways, time to wake up the kids.But that's why I keep coming back to paddling. You guys.


#18 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 6:41am



Just playing Luke, good response. I pretty much agree with you on that one.........but I was still too small for football.


#20 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 7:19pm


haha, nah.. if paddling got me as much money, blinging rides and hot girls as you then that'd be my reason too :)


#21 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 7:39pm


hey i want hot chicks,blinging rides, and cash. only guys like aloek can do that.


#22 Wed, 02/01/2006 - 8:19pm


I paddle because it does keep me in shape and damn he view is fantastic. When you kids get older, you'll get to understand mortality and it aint about chicks, bling bling or cash. Frankly haven't seen ANY of those 3 items. When I was going to NASCAR and INDY 500 events there was a lot of that.

So maybe in a 100 years, something will happen. Meanwhile, hope you have a day job. Aloha, keep paddling and bring someone in.

I was recruited by some guy in the gym a few years ago, best thing for my health.


#23 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 12:39am


You mean we don't do this for the money....or do we do it for the money that we spend? LOL, I guess I gotta keep that day job....Thanks for the good advice Ian HEHEHEHE!!!


#24 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 8:42am


hey Ian the bling bling and girls and cash was just a joke. i paddle for reasons i cannot explain. "us kids" could probably tell you alot more about this sport and its culture than you probably know.


#25 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 2:01pm


Yeah..."us kids" love this sport, don't we, hapakid2? You just can't explain the feeling......and the friends you make along the way is the best part.


#26 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 7:12pm


amen aloek. hahaha but he is right. friends you make and people you meet is the best part.


#27 Fri, 02/03/2006 - 7:39pm


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