MIRAGE vs. TAHITIAN Canoe ; Which one is Faster in the Flat and surf well on Big Bumps?

Hey! Guys,

Which one do you think is a better OC 6 Boat? The Tahitian made boat that was use by TEAM LIVESTRONG at the MAUI to MOLOKAI race or the Foam core MIRAGE? IF they race next Year in MOLOKAI HO'E would they be in a different division? Look like in this sport, somebody is always raising up the bar to another level. New Canoe OC 1 or OC 6, training strategies, equipment, accessories, to get an Edge. Which sometimes it comes down to MONEY. We need big Sponsorship & Donation, or Big Price money which i believed would bring this sports to a higher Level. Every year more people Racing, 111 Boats in Molokai Ho'e can you imagine next year. Housing accomodation getting short in MOLOKAI. This Sport is Exploding in different angles, don't you think.

Submitted by Kaipu on Thu, 12/20/2007 - 3:25pm

It's time to open it up,design wise. If it's got 6 seats, an ama, and you paddle it, then who cares! It's time for this sport to outgrow the OHCRAesque rules which govern the majority of North American outrigger organizations. The goal is always to go faster-right? Right now, our club in Washington is looking into purchasing a Tahitian style Va'a like Livestrong's one. If we get DQed then who cares? It's funner to go faster! I think the Polynesian predecessors would agree- I'm sure the Ancient Hawaiians had way more in their quiver than the opelu style Malia mold. Check out the surfboards in Bishop Museum, way more innovative than early twentieth century boards.

#1 Thu, 12/20/2007 - 4:49pm

Or try to develop a faster one if possible. Take a look at the strides the solo has made and the changes. e.g. the ama and seat ect.

Merry Christmas

#2 Thu, 12/20/2007 - 6:20pm

whichever boat the tahitians are in is the faster boat.

#3 Thu, 12/20/2007 - 7:13pm

If nothing else, at least do away with the 400lb rule. Low 300s is no problem structurally without costing a lot of money.

#4 Fri, 12/21/2007 - 5:44am

Have any of you guys paddled in the tahitian style 6man? I thought the design was for flat water but I saw it on a video of the channelrace and it seems like it surfs good too.

#5 Fri, 12/21/2007 - 10:38am

we tryed a Fiji 6man thanks to a couple of our guys Ed & Ron it was a lot bigger than our Canadian made one.but felt faster than any canoe I have been on for them few moments.

#6 Fri, 12/21/2007 - 10:59pm

If the design is completely opened up, the product will most certainly not be a "Tahitian canoe". What kind of nonsense is that? It will be a Hawaiian canoe, designed for Hawaiian waters by the talent pool that exists within Hawaii. Prepare to be amazed.

#7 Sat, 12/22/2007 - 5:12am

There isn't A tahitian design. Each shaper has its own design. Some are narrow, some are wide. some V6 are 12 metres long, others are 14...
Some V6 are good on choppy seas, some surf well long swells, some are made for flat waters...
whitewater is right. You will create new hawaiian canoes. In Tahiti, we are waiting to see what you will come up with.
There should not be a tahitian, a hawaiian or a fijian design... Outrigger canoe is a polynesian way of life, and each one of us is a polynesian. We should never forget that.

Merry Xmas to all.

#8 Mon, 12/24/2007 - 8:16am

Its time for Hawaii to completely open up canoe design and to go ALL IRON. Forget the water ballet already.

We have had many years to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the traditional current racing design, but we have to move on. The original logic behind the need for crew changes is no longer valid. The newer generation needs to take control. The tradition is in the paddling, not in what the boat looks like or in jumping in and out of boats.

#9 Mon, 12/24/2007 - 8:40am

Let the boat-builders do their thing. Look at what guys like Johnny P, Karel, Steve Blyth, John Martin, Kai, Tiger, et al have done for one-mans. Imagine the new six-mans in these guys' heads...
We mandate foam-core and fiberglass Mirages and Lightnings for what? Tradition? The traditions are in the koa boats, and in the Bishop Museum. Keep paddling alive, keep the competition alive - with progress.
Among all the marvelling of the Tahitians, has anyone ever accused tham of losing their culture? ...of not being in touch with their roots?
Outrigger tradition in Tahiti has continued it's march into the future unimpeded by the same regulations which have bound Hawaiian paddlers for decades. There's no limits placed upon the Tahitians in their quest to be the best outrigger paddlers in the world - and FOR NOW they have achieved their goal.
We need to play a little catch-up. We need to get "out of the box". For Hawaiian paddling, and Hawaiian paddlers, we need to unleash outrigger paddling from the archaic "rules" which aim to keep us in the 1950's.

#10 Mon, 12/24/2007 - 2:56pm

hmmm. now if only my club could get an unlimited canoe made in hawaii. it would sweet to race in one. screw the rules, i'd just go for the DQ every time. wish there was a boat builder that made them here.


#11 Mon, 12/24/2007 - 10:27pm

Everyone wants a good technological edge, but beware of the law of unexpected consequences.

Every time you introduce a boat that has a significant technical advantage, there will be a large group of paddlers who will not be able to afford the change over to the new boat and fall away. These OTHER paddlers will feel the playing field is not level and simply look for some other form of conpetition. These days lighter means more expensive and more delicate. At some point we are going to have boat breaking up mid-race, like some of the America's Cup boats, because they've been designed for speed rather than practicality. As you may have noticed, the America's Cup these days is won by the team with the most money.

Any changes to the rules should encourage boat designs that can be used for training as well as for racing. Any changes should allow for maintenance and repair materials and technology within the expense range of real people. Forget #$%^ carbon fiber.

The Molokai-Oahu race gets the participation of over 100 teams a year these days. That's because teams can come in from all over and borrow boats. That's been the genius of the race administrators, the availability of fairly uniform boats widescale. I've competed in seakayaking and the lack of uniformity has essentially killed seakayak racing. Surfskis are fairly uniform, seakayaks are not.

Make outrigger racing too technological and you'll be back to a race with a dozen teams.

Personally I don't think the sport is all about going fast. It is about physical fitness and camaraderie.

I have not problem with a special Iron division, but to the public, those changeovers are just awesome to watch.

#12 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:08am

Wow, old thread.

Six man crew, no iron division. All the paddling sports doing the channel are doing so without crew changes. The exception is the OC-1 relay etc., but with due respect, that's like the doubles tournament at Wimbledon--its an extra, no one really cares who wins.

In Hawaii I almost seem to feel a rivalry based on tradition going on against Tahiti. Not good. These politics and aesthetics = stagnation.

#13 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 5:46am

Yeah ! Yeah Santa gimme a sit on 6

#14 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 9:53am

Wanted to stay out of this one, but being the Port-A-Gee that I am, I just had to jump in....
1. Time to move on, I agree across the board on this subject.
2. A 300 lb. boat can be built using standard materials that will be structually strong, no need carbon fiber and run the cost up and no way the boat going broke in half ala America's Cup. I saw that on cable. That yacht sank in about 2 minutes.
3. Our Hawaii boat designers gotta wake up and just start designing a wicked machine and offer them for sale. Regardless of what people think, there is an open class division that allows all designs. Its just that race organizers don't promote it. The Liliu race was on the verge of exploding in the Open division when Lanikai and Live Strong put their machines on the water, but because of lack of access to these types of boats, no else joined them.
4. Lanikai or Live Strong should pop a mold from their boats and offer to sell canoes and make them 300 lbs. If that happens, before you know it, that open class division will explode.
5. Contrary to popular beliefs, canoe paddlers WANT TO GO FAST!! yeah, all the other fluffy stuff matters as well, but bottom line, we all like go fast.
6. PAA....Manny and his gang. I can foresee Manny and PAA taking the lead on a iron race, Molokai to Oahu, unlimited design, do it during the summer....right now PAA is coming on strong and could be the entity that rivals OCHRA will a channel race that will certainly challenge the elite paddlers. OCHRA can continue with the Molokai HOE.

So, give Manny and PAA all your support. This can be done. Only thing holding this back is access to boats...there are none out there. Lanikai and Live Strong...time to step up and make boats. Where is it written that only Sonny B. and Karel can make 6 man boats?? Kamanu composites...knowing these guys, their boat will be out within a couple years.

JawsOut...gotta get back to work.

#15 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:26am

Australia now have official phasing in of lightweight 130kg unlimited design over the next 2 years just passed by AOCRA Commitee. The lightweight is not the exciting part, but the unlimited design is.

More info when the official docs released.

Cheers Rambo

#16 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:25am

Concur with all of you.
Going back to the subject...Mirage vs. Tahitian Canoe; Which one is Faster in the Flat and Surfs Well on Big Bumps? Before answering the question.......a "Tahitian" canoe is everything of a Polynesian canoe. Hawaiians of old built canoes with narrowed bows and sterns (wa'a 'aki), strip planks (wa'a humu), and light, swift canoes built specifically for speed (kialoa/kioloa). A "Tahitian" canoe has all these traits thus, in reality they can be referred to as a Polynesian canoe. We don't go to Tahiti and hear the Tahitians calling them "Hawaiian" canoes!
Now to answer the question.....Hands down, a Polynesian canoe will out dance the Mirage and the Bradley....even if both were reduced to the Tahitian standard of 150 kilos, or 330lbs. And this is true in either flat or surfing conditions as long as you have the correct design criteria incorporated in the hull.

#17 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:33pm

Hey Bill, I know that you had your own design canoes in Kona at the Liliuokalani race ( which looks good ). Is those canoes more for Kona water? Have you had a chance to race them in rough water or the Molokai Hoe? Is thre any other clubs that have your style canoe?

#18 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 7:51pm


My canoes are not 'Kona water specific'. I've raced them in conditions comparable to the Moloka'i Hoe. Livestrong paddlers have taken one of my Polynesian canoes out in rough water and were very impressed. We watched them catch bumps in front of the bump they were on. Waikoloa Canoe Club has one of identical hull design.

Livestrong also tried my HCRA legal canoe and were able to keep it at a faster hull speed than any other canoe with the same effort. The more they put on it, the faster it went.

If a kalai wa'a understands hull design and the function of each design characteristic contained therein, that canoe is certain to perform in the conditions he specifies. Test driving not necessary. It's like rigging....one can rig by trial and error, but there's a sure fire way of rigging any canoe, with any ama, and any pair of iako, the first time without putting it in the water and it is race ready. It comes down to knowing how to do it.

#19 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 8:21pm

Bill - could you please explain a bit more about this sure fire rigging?
I'm having a devil of a time trying to re-rig my V1 - i had some old settings that worked, but i've had to do some repairs to the ama and kiatos and everything has changed. I normally just rely on trial and error..

#20 Mon, 12/07/2009 - 11:35pm

The Tahitian 6 man is 200lbs and pointed at the bottom like a knife, they are very easy to go straight but harder to turn. I am born and raised from Hawaii and I don't think you all understand the sport, it is a sport to honor our ancestors and to show respect to our past culture. Holue people always want to come in and do it their way. It may be better to change the boats to go faster but we are about tradition and heritage of our ancestors. It gives me much pride and mana when I sit in a boat and paddle like my Hawaiians once did. Malama the culture.

#21 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 10:23am

Most Tahitian made OC6's come in around 300. Regarding tradition and heritage, what is traditional about a fiberglass canoe? Hawaiians paddled many different hull designs, from single person up to boats that held 100 people. What tradition is a glass canoe? The tradition and heritage are not in the canoe designs, but more in the sport itself. If people of old had technology to use modern composites, do you actually think they would not use them? The world evolves.....enjoy the sport and don't get so wrapped up in the canoes themselves.
Current rules in Hawaii actual stifle the design of canoes, even disallowing designs that were around for centuries.
A standard is great, but allow the growth of the design to flow naturally.
Just my two cents, I don't pretend to know much...just wonder about so called tradition at times.

#22 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:18pm

"enjoy the sport and don’t get so wrapped up in the canoes themselves."

I'm calling the not possible rule on this one. If you enjoy the sport, you will get wrapped up in the canoes (along with the paddles, the amas, the iakos, color scheme, jerseys, rules, etc). I always thought that paddling is all about the canoe really...without one, you are not really paddling...well unless you paddle a SUP, which is sort of like a canoe...but not really...anyways.

IMHO, change is coming for sure though I am not sure it will be an overnight transformation like the Pueo (or some will say the XM in a couple of weeks or months :) ), just way too many things to address, limited access to one (for now), and one thing that comes to mind...technique. Will new canoe designs require changes in our stroke to fully maximize the design potential ? If so, from personal observation, general reluctance here in Hawaii in changing strokes may be another obstacle.

That said...kudos to peeps like Bill Rosehill spearheding the revolution in canoe designs. Hope many more builders will come out and join the ride..and accelerate the whole process.

okay...lunchtime rambling off...

#23 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:49pm

I think my point was that through the years, the canoes will always change. Fiberglass in 10-50 years may not be the norm, you never know. However, the sport of outrigger paddling will basically stay the same, a paddle, 6 people, and paddling from one spot to another. To honor the "tradition" that's all you really need. We all cannot afford koa logs, or even consider paddling a koa canoe throughout the world. Though we all can share the experience of paddling.
I agree with you regarding Bill Rosehill, his canoes are works of art and his knowledge of canoe design is unmatched in Hawaii. Mucho kudos to Bill for sure.

#24 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:58pm

Holue people always want to come in and do it their way. It may be better to change the boats to go faster but we are about tradition and heritage of our ancestors.

It seems to me that the actual "traditional" design was not defined by native hawaiians... Am I wrong ?

#25 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 6:21pm

What is the "actual 'traditional' design" you refer to?

#26 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 6:45pm

The hawaiian fishing 6 men canoe.

#27 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 8:44pm

The one that HCRA promotes as "traditional"?

#28 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 8:48pm

that one.

#29 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 8:54pm

I believe at least some, if not all, were. Am I wrong?

#30 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 9:06pm

What I meant was there has never been a group of hawaiian kahuna who met and decided what should be traditional and declared "This is a real canoe ! Everything else is not !"
If we really want to go traditional let's get stone adzes, let's go in the forest, cut a tree, dig it, portage it back to the shore and paddle it with 15lbs paddles to go fishing.

#31 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 9:20pm

You are correct.

#32 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 9:24pm

Most of all, I don't believe that we're showing respect to our ancestors by refusing to evlove... They were not a bunch of primitive ignorants. They were constantly innovating, building better and bigger canoes, sailing accross the biggest ocean when all the other civilizations were afraid to get too far from shore. If you want to show them some respect, build some 21st century canoes. They created the concept (hull + outrigger), keep it but bring something new.

#33 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 9:36pm

Couldn't agree with you more, Hiro.

The problem as I see it, is with the influx of Westerners, decades passed here in Hawaii where it was not "in" to speak Hawaiian hence, be Hawaiian. Decades also passed where barge racing, similar to skull racing, was the predominant paddling (rowing) sport of the time. Outrigger racing took a back seat. As such, Hawaiian kupuna who had the knowledge and skill to design and build outrigger canoes passed on, leaving decades of void in this component of Hawaiiana. Then, when outrigger racing resurrected itself, the only canoes that survived those decades were utility fishing and surfing canoes, also used as baggage canoes. Thus, those were the canoes deemed "traditional" and which were used to derive the existing HCRA hull specifications.

Like Steve West writes in is book, Kanu Culture..."Only the village idiot would have suggested to his chief, that design limits should be implemented on hull design,........"

In my opinion, everyone who has contributed to this thread is on the right track.

#34 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 10:00pm

it would be an monumental experience if each crew built there own design, and raced it. I think they would find it fuller as a culture experience. and get a deeper understanding of the sport.

#35 Wed, 12/09/2009 - 10:22pm

What Bill said about the rowing barge racing dominating in Old Hawaii was confirmed by the many stories and conversations i had with Nappy just this last weekend at the Aussie National Oc1 races. I cannot wait for Marta's Documentary to be released telling Nappy's story and that of the 9 Island Crossing he did last year

Nappy also has his own thoughts on what is "traditional"and what is not.
He was very specific that new canoe designs, which he fully supports, should retain identifying characteristics of their origin. He mentioned retaining the Manu's as a minimum no matter what materials the canoe is constructed from.
I think "tradition" is both the Canoe (in it's broadest sense) and the act of padding them for racing, food gathering, or just simple pleasure. It's not limited to any one thing.

If you get the chance, sit under a tree with Nappy and ask him to tell a story.
Cheers Rambo

#36 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 11:59am

Before the science of fluid dynamics was understood and computer technology
made hull design as easy as punching digits on a keyboard, mana was needed
to create a fast canoe.

The importance of mana to outrigger, is symbolised in the elements that are
generally referred to as 'Tradition" , and to lose the importance of mana is
to reduce the canoe to becoming nothing more than a floating object.

#37 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 1:37pm

There seem to be two lines of thought in this thread - those who appreciate
that there is more to a canoe than just the material form, and those who see
it as little more than a vehicle.

Sure, to spend enough money on the best in materials and technology, will
result in a marginal performance advantage. But is the loss of mana worth
the flashy appeal that comes with it?

#38 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 1:38pm

Rambo, thank you for validating similar conversations I've had with Nappy re maintaining the fore and aft manus on canoes built here in Hawaii to retain Hawaiian identity (see thread "Matching jersey's or a time penalty - Oct. '09). It is also gratifying to know people like Nappy are aware of the void (due to barge racing) our outrigger culture suffered and continues to suffer.
Goodwaka, it is unfortunate to witness first hand here in Hawaii that to many, the canoe has been reduced to nothing more than a floating object. The mana, cultural history, and value of the canoe is not being perpetuated by all. It is in part due to the void in history previously mentioned.

#39 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 4:48pm

Above someone said the sport was all about going fast, and I said I thought it was more about physical fitness and camaraderie.

It is NOT about going fast in an absolute sense. You can buy boats today that will go faster than any boat can be paddled. Part of what the sport is about is being able to paddle a certain kind of boat faster than the other guy, or the other crew can paddle a boat that is reasonably equivalent to the boat you are paddling. Reasonably equivalent. And it is about allowing a large number of other people to have that same opportunity. Traditional really means not so complex that most people could not dream of putting a boat together that way. Traditional means the average Polynesian would never be able to purchase one or even touch one except with special help. Some sports have become that way. Only a small group of people can do some sports as they have evolved. Outrigger canoeing is about going faster within some boundaries.

It is about going faster using a paddle. It is about going fast using an outrigger attached to a hull. You chuckle, "well everyone knows that." But that's not true. I'll bet even on that there will be some disagreement.

There are also some other boundaries that make it satisfying paddling faster and faster. That's the problem. We're not completely sure what they are just yet, but I am sure however we can all think of possibilities where we'd say, "that's not outrigger canoeing."

It isn't just about going fast alone.

Going fast any old way is easy. In a way, we want to go fast in a way that's not easy. We want to go fast in a way that makes sense.

#40 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 6:47pm


#41 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 7:59pm

Agree, Yankee..."It isn't just about going fast alone." There is a need for some boundaries. Hull design however, shouldn't be one of them.

Promotion of wood canoes should also be favored. After all, outriggers built of wood perpetuates culture and tradition.

A current Hawaii rule re koa and non-koa 'wood' canoes, disallows plank canoes in favor of canoes hewn from a log. The rationale being the desire to perpetuate the art of carving a koa canoe the '"ancient way". As noted in my earlier post, Hawaiians built plank canoes as well as dugouts. Therefore, if a builder can design and build a serviceable, competitive canoe with planks, he has proven he knows what he's doing just as he does so building a dugout. Both methodologies are "ancient ways", or "traditional."

Clubs would be able to afford strip plank koa canoes b/c they would be more cost-effective....dimensional koa lumber is more readily available and it takes less time to build. Ancestral Hawaiians also built canoes from drift logs carried by currents to their shores. Therefore, building today's canoes utilizing other woods would also be "traditional".....and the art will carry on to future generations.

#42 Fri, 12/18/2009 - 7:43am

Thank you Bill.. I agree 100% and think traditional wood canoes are the essence of canoe racing. I have very little knowledge on the Hawaiian canoe building traditions. but am in awe of them when I see one . traditional Koa wood canoes should be kept alive in the sport as it is the crown on outrigger racing and should be protected , even pursued by making other types of wood canoes like planks. as for the weight limit as said before if they do lower the weight limit and make a open division it would be harder to race a koa canoe.

#43 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 8:39pm

Perhaps not, mulus. Koa color spans the entire spectrum from blond to black. The lighter the color, the less dense the wood hence, the lighter (in weight) the wood. Koa becomes denser (heavier) as it darkens. So, if light colored strip-plank koa can be ordered from the logger and/or retailer, one can still build a lighter-weight koa canoe that would be structurally sound and weigh in at considerably less than 400lbs.

#44 Sun, 12/13/2009 - 9:07pm


I like all your ideas on wood outriggers. I like them because they increase availability of boats and build a cottage industry to support the sport. I like the idea because we don't have Koa here on the East Coast. I like it because it teaches racers some practical skills. Personally, I'd probably stick to fiberglass because of the maintenance considerations around here.

As for hull design, I'm wary of two things, freaks and platinum powered sinkholes.

Herreshoff the famous boat designer was worried about boats he called "freaks." Freaks were boats built only to race, often for a particular race, and not intended to be sailed generally. I remember kayaks at one time looking like paper airplane darts. No curved lines, just built to meet the race rule specs. One look and you knew they were not designed for general use on the water. Not long ago an America's Cup boat broke up under the feet of its crew in the middle of a race. It was clearly a freak.

Then there are platinum powered sinkholes which are boats design to gain an advantage by investing money in technology. Those boats simply outspend their competitors to the finish line. There are America's Cup analogies there, too.

I'd limit the cost of an OC-6 to the higher price of a Mirage or Lightning in 2009 US dollars for boat using comparable materials. There would be ways of enforcing that legally, even for prototypes, but I don't have the space here to show how that can be done.

#45 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:43am


Going "faster within some boundaries" as you mention above will prevent freaks and platinum powered sinkholes from finding there way in to this sport. If these were allowed, we would witness the demise of the art of building an outrigger of wood. Building a canoe of wood is as much the culture of Polynesia as the sport of racing them. Emphasizing and promoting racing only, erodes a historical component of Polynesia, Hawaii in particular. This should never happen. If we wouldn't switch from koa ukuleles to plastic ones to perpetuate our music, we shouldn't entertain freaks and platinum powered sinkholes to perpetuate our outriggers.

#46 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 5:58pm

this fits the 'freak' description

#47 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:26pm

scuse the above post.........the cartoon that was supposed to go with it does not show up

#48 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 6:28pm

Implementation of regulation to define a 'Hawaiian canoe', as done with HCRA
specs, may have been well meant at the time.

Given the fact that barge racing had replaced canoe racing, the
implementation of a narrow definition based on existing fishing canoe
design is understandable; they had no knowledge at that time of
technological changes to come.

But based on the current situation, the existing HCRA hull specifications
seem to be the result of taking the village idiots suggestion seriously...
and ironically it has been the use of a non traditional material
(fibreglass) which has allowed growth in outrigger canoeing.

Making sense of this all, the simple solution seems to be a case of taking a
lesson from Tahiti

#49 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:22pm

At the time HCRA hull specifications came to be, there was much controversy over specs set in stone as, it was not the Hawaiian way. The specs came about as the result of embarrassment.

Fiberglass canoes predominately took over due to the lack of koa logs. Environmentalists locked up our forests by zoning which prohibits taking logs out even if they have fallen naturally. Politicians here in Hawaii and across the nation have been brainwashed. But that's another thread.

The Big Island Racing Association has never agreed with HCRA hull specs and allows koa and non-koa canoes to be of unlimited design. Clubs here have them, and they are much faster than canoes built to meet HCRA specs. And I agree, Tahiti is another example.

#50 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 8:40pm

This is another interesting topic as they usually are if Bill Rosehill is contributing to it, (thanks Bill)
Please excuse me if I offend anyone with this comment as it is not my intention and perhaps I am displaying ignorance but from my travels and observations a strict adherence to specifications seems to be a very unPolynesian mindset in my view, as Hiro said earlier if they werent traditionally bold and willing to change the status quo they wouldnt have set off across the pacific, sadly there are no more unknown earthly horizons to paddle over , but there are plenty of design boundaries to push , it would be good to see what developed if the shackles of complying with strict traditional specs. were removed.

#51 Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:44pm

While the current HCRA specs were developed as a result of Tahitians beating everyone in the the Molokai Hoe, it did help define what was considered a Hawaiian design. The many Koa canoes that were measured in 1975/76 to determine the waterlines, were made by Hawaiians, or Hawaiians at heart, to compete.
They were made by people who had a deep pride and love of the sport, culture, and tradition of Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling.
Whether the canoe is Tahitian, Hawaiian, Aotearoan, Californian or whatever, it is still the love and the pride of the people paddling it that makes it move.
The Queen Lili`uokalani long distance race is one competition where Hawaiian design and Polynesian design canoes can compete together. Sometimes the Polynesian design is fastest, sometimes the Hawaiian is.
It still comes down to the people paddling in the canoe.

#52 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:03am

MikeA, I think you're missing the point. I understand there was a reason at the time, and I can respect that. But that was then, this is now. Are you still on the HCRA board? What can be done to put action into these ideas? This needs help and support from people like you who can hopefully understand both sides of the argument and help things progress. Without a vision the people perish, what is the vision for HCRA and 6 man canoe paddling in Hawaii?

#53 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:16am

Aloha Joe,
Mahalo for your opinions and observations.
I am still on the HCRA board.
The HCRA is comprised of over 65 clubs in 6 associations statewide. Na Wahine O ke Kai, the organizing body of the wahine Molokai race, and Na Opio, the organizing body for statewide outrigger racing for elementary, intermediate and high school age kids, are members also.
Each of the 6 associations has two voting members on the HCRA board of directors. These voting members bring input from their respective associations to the HCRA meetings held during the year. From this input, the board presents proposed race rules changes, by laws amendments, and officer candidates at the annual meeting held every December.
At the annual meeting a representative from each of the 65+ clubs votes on the proposed changes and officer elections.
This is basically how HCRA puts ideas from it"s members into action.
As for the vision of the HCRA. That can be summed up pretty well from the By-Laws.
The principal purposes of HCRA are to:
Engage in, promote, encourage participation in, and provide education and instruction in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture through canoeing and other related activities on a local, national and international basis.
Foster, encourage and promote interest in the sport and science of canoe racing and canoeing in the state of Hawaii.
Encourage, maintain and perpetuate authentic Hawaiian canoe racing and preservation of Hawaiian Koa canoes.
Promote competetive inter-club, inter island, and international Hawaiian canoe racing.
To me this means that we don't want to lose those things we consider to be Hawaiian. We also don't want to limit or handicap our paddlers while competing on a worldwide level by getting stuck in the past.
Fiberglass ama's, carbon fiber paddle blades, laminated iako's, computerized scoring and registration, digital finish line cameras and plastic paddler identification cards are not really considered a part of traditional Hawaiian outrigger
canoe racing. They have, however, been voted on and approved by the HCRA as methods of improving our sport through technology and equipment advances.
Many of the ideas in this thread are excellent, and worth considering here in Hawaii. Not everyone agrees all the time on how HCRA leads our sport, but everyone who is a member of HCRA has the opportunity to contribute to it.

#54 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:48pm

I like what is being said by everyone and it is this kind of energy that will always keep hawaiian outrigger canoe racing going . I do believe that there are great canoe designers and builders who can build very fast canoes . There are already alot of different designed canoes out there competing, if you say "where", just look at the cover picture on Pacific Paddler Magazine state regatta coverage and you will see that all of them have different rocker and hull designs. Alot of them have different water lines, but that could be because of the paddler size and weight differences. All of these canoes were built by craftsmen who have kept within the rules handed down by the HCRA , they have improved on the design criteria that was given to them. All these different designs from one set of rules ! These men are brilliant ! All the R&D that goes into designing and building what they would hope will be a rocketship on water can only be determined by what is in the seat. Symmetrical crew,one helluva boat. Non symmetrical crew, just another great looking canoe . When dollars and cents is introduced into the equation, the old racing saying goes,"speed costs money!' "How fast do you wanna go"? There is a racing organization that had to look at just such a thing that alot of you wish would happen. They saw the need to even the playing field because engineers at the big auto companies were going by the other old saying "what wins on sunday sells on monday". They introduced their own design and made all the race teams fit their bodies on it.
If you would like to see canoe racing at a even keel and appreciate what good paddling is all about, come out saturday morning at 8 o'clock down at Ai'na Moana. The ILH canoe season begins, in this division it is all about the paddlers because their boat of choice by the rules, is the great "Malia" fiberglass canoe.
And those people who saw it fit to level the playing field, NASCAR, probably the greatest and fairest racing organization in the world.

Water cures all ! "Big Boys Kick and Glide"

#55 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:40pm


To say the specs helped define what was considered a Hawaiian design, is amiss. Canoes measured to determine the specs were of one type....utility. That's all that survived the decades of outrigger void. There are many other types of Hawaiian canoes. All of them should have been given equal consideration. They weren't.

"Sometimes the Polynesian canoe is the fastest, sometimes the Hawaiian is. It still comes down to the people paddling in the canoe." This is true if one simply looks at which canoe crosses the finish line first, with no consideration given to the crews' ability.

However, put Team A Hawaii in a Polynesian canoe which finishes first overall. Team B Mediocre is in an HCRA spec canoe and finishes 30 minutes behind. The same two crews race the same course the following week with Team A Hawaii again in a Polynesian canoe finishing first. Team B Mediocre, now ALSO in a Polynesian canoe, finishes 20 minutes behind....10 minutes faster than their time last week. The Polynesian canoe by design, will improve any crews time therefore, is always faster.

When I race my Polynesian canoe, I don't cross first overall, but I know that whatever my placement, I did better than I could have in an HCRA spec canoe. I wanna go fast! It's simple....the same effort in an efficient hull design, yields more distance per stroke than the same effort in an inefficient design. Another analogy: one car running on 7 cylinders (inefficient), while another car runs on all 8 cylinders (efficient). Which one will go farther given the same time?

#56 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:04pm

I think the paddlers will just have to take it upon themselves someday to just say fuck it and start racing these faster designs in OHCRA (and other associations w/ these limitations) races even if they are to be DQed. It's almost like a violation of personal freedom to have these design rules, IMO. Seats six, has ama, open cockpit, and powered by paddles...that's it.

#57 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:50pm

Seats six, has ama, open cockpit, and powered by paddles…that’s it.

Hey Jim, isn't 'open cockpit' a design limitation? Canoes from Tahiti, Cook Islands & other parts of the Pacific have individual cockpits. Would it be more correct to say " Seats six, has ama, and powered by paddles…that’s it."?

#58 Tue, 12/15/2009 - 6:38pm

Jim said:

I think the paddlers will just have to take it upon themselves someday to just say fuck it and start racing these faster designs in OHCRA (and other associations w/ these limitations) races even if they are to be DQed.

If paddlers really want a place to race non-HCRA designs create a venue for it like HVA has for the V1. Despite the design restrictions, HCRA has helped promote wa'a paddling and to essentially crash their events seems counterproductive and more likely to raise tensions than lead to change.

Take a popular course for one of the distance races and have an open class race there. Crews can compare times and see improvement over a known course they've done in HCRA wa'a. Problem is, there probably aren't enough wa'a to do this.

#59 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:21am

I'm just saying, if you're at all familiar w/ OHCRA, which is the organization which controls the hoe, then you know that change is unlikely to come from within the organization itself.

#60 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:00am

I understand that, I'm saying create a true alternative rather than just race on the outskirts. DQs will never be mainstream because people want a reward for their work (2:02 instead of a DQ next to their name). Competition is good and it honestly sounds like HCRA needs a competing organization for paddling to grow.

#61 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:04am

I've had the good fortune of watching you build your waa, seeing the beautiful finished product, and enjoying paddling in them. Mahalo for sharing that.
While we don't always agree on the competetive arena for the different hull designs, we do agree that the long distance races are the best opportunity right now for the comparisons.
Perhaps a discussion on racing of "non Hawaiian" and Hawaiian design in long distance races, but maintaining the tradition of Hawaiian design in regattas, is a stroke in the right direction. I don't know if all would agree on how to determine a Hawaiian racing canoe, but the builders of the canoes measured in 1975/76 had shaped their hulls to race from what they had learned.
HCRA has over 8,000 paddlers, many of them younger than 18. For this part of our membership, education in the Hawaiian culture and traditions is more significant and meaningful. For them to have the experience of racing in the HCRA state championships in a Hawaiian Koa canoe is invaluable. There are few places in the world where anyone of any age group can say they had the opportunity to compete in a canoe that was once a living part of the land, and is now a living part of the sea. This is one of the main purposes of the HCRA..
Few of the younger paddlers will race long distance, and if they do, perhaps then we can provide them and everyone else the chance to see different canoe ideas from other areas of the paddling world.

#62 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:17am

Great post Mike, I think you summed up what is great about HCRA (the keiki) and the short comings (distance). As well as given some direction into how steps can be taken to open up the future for the next generation of paddlers and canoe building. Problem is, most clubs will not fund a distance only "open class" canoe. Maybe crews will start up and chip in to buy their own boats, or there can be other incentives to have an open class canoe. hmm.

Bill, how would you propose?

#63 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:58am

Great thread!

This issue has already been addressed in Tommy Holmes' "The Hawaiian Canoe". You can buy it on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hawaiian-Canoe-Tommy-Holmes/dp/0915013150

Tommy did a tremendous amount of research into the subject, the vast majority of the topics that repeatedly come up on this site have already been addressed in the book. Rambo, I'm sure you have a copy (saw the video of Tommy charging in your locker), if not, tell the mrs you want it for christmas!

"limits, like fears, are often just an illusion." -- MikeJ(ordan)

While I agree with MikeA that Koa canoes in the HCRA reggattas are good and that they provide an invaluable experience for not just the kids, but for everybody. I full heartedly support HCRA's requirement of Koa, on this front HCRA has been invaluable in preserving our past and perpetuating our culture. However, respectfully, I believe the discussion is in regards to distance racing and specs. Here are my thoughts.

Obviously, I think we all agree that there were Hawaiian Canoes before the specs. So it is safe to say Hawaiian canoes existed separate and apart from specs for thousands of years, with the only limitation being the size of the log and the intended purpose (fishing, racing, war, burial, travel, ect.). Then came the HCRA specs in 70s. Somehow, someway, HCRA took it upon themselves to define what was a traditional Hawaiian racing canoe, even though they had no specs from a traditional Hawaiian racing canoe. It would be illogical to think that only the canoes that followed the HCRA specs in time and fashion would be defined as being traditional Hawaiian because there existed canoes thousands of years prior that were both "traditional" and "Hawaiian." Illogical and ridiculous.

The current HCRA specs are at best a FICTION--a bunch of arbitrary numbers--not a traditional racing design. To say otherwise is disingenuous. On this point I agree with Bill.

HCRA has two choices, 1) include an unlimited category (perhaps with the requirement Nappy spoke of with na manu) in the distance races; 2) or be left in dust when another racing association is created using modern unlimited designs with, perhaps, no regard to things "Hawaiian." If HCRA truly believes it is exists for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating Hawaiian culture, then it must address and reconsider said illogical specs.

#64 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:27am

Agree Numerouno, anybody interested in this topic would find Tommy's Book invaluable, yes i have a copy and also recommend Canoes of Oceania by Haddon and Hornell.

While i'm very interested in this topic it's best for only Hawaiian paddlers to discuss these matters.

#65 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:13pm

Good one Numeruno,
You're right about Tommy. His work and his books are outstanding.
Technically HCRA only establishes rules for one race, the HCRA state championships.
It's rules though are used as guidelines for the 6 associations, Na Wahine O ke Kai, and Na Opio.
The associations are not required to follow HCRA rules for their own events. but most do for consistency
Each club hosting an event, or an association organizing an event (OHCRA, Na Wahine and Na Opio) can determine the classification and awards for entries in their event based on their own rules.
Each association is a little bit different in how they run their races, but all recognize HCRA rules for hull specs.
Some associations and HCRA have an Open Class division for the canoes.
This division allows any shape and design, and any material for construction. The canoe must only have one hull, one ama, and two iakos seperated by at least one seat. There must be 6 seats. The maximum length is 45 feet and minimum racing weight is 400lbs. There can be no mechanical devices or additional attachments for steering, powering or bailing.
This rule allows the Koa to maintain it's place, but allows for other options and opportunities.

#66 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:31pm

Mike, you're a terrific politician. Intentionally or unintentionally, you have skirted the primary jist of this thread. ".....maintaining the tradition of Hawaiian design in regattas,.....". By this, you clearly refer to the HCRA spec design. This thread has incontestably shown the HCRA spec koa canoe, is not the traditional Hawaiian design....unless you are referring to the bubble of time from 1976 to today. Said bubble is a far cry from authentic traditional.

"....builders of the canoes measured in 1975/76 had shaped their hulls to race from what they had learned." A lot of those canoes were not shaped specifically for racing. Those that were, were merely streamlined utility canoe designs. The canoe now only had to carry 6 people for racing, not 5-6 350lb. ahi to feed the village plus the weight of the crew. The builders who built the kialoas, and wa'a 'aki must have passed on during the extended decades of void or we would have been left with a physical specimen. But we do know they existed.

If we're going to educate HCRA's 8K paddlers under the age of 18, let's do so accurately. When you say it is invaluable for our keiki to race in a Hawaiian koa, again you are referring to a dugout HCRA spec koa canoe. The true Hawaiian koa is a koa of any design and includes a strip plank koa.

Being realistic, koa canoe logs are scarce. Continuing to promote such a canoe could ultimately, over time, result in the loss of the art due to lack of logs. Teaching keiki how to build a strip koa canoe can be initiated today, and will preserve the art b/c those skills can then be easily applied to carving one from a log, should a log come available in the future. As both a Hawaiian and a designer/builder, I view any koa canoe as culturally traditional regardless of construction method, dugout or strip plank, b/c my ancestors did the same. This is what we should be teaching our keiki. In addition, we teach them to be flexible given the resources available to them.

Many koa canoes in Hawaii are comprised entirely of patches resulting from years of wear and repair. I see no difference between that and a strip plank canoe regardless if the former was originally hewn from a single log 80 years ago. Not many can duplicate that effort today. However, anyone today wanting to learn to build a strip canoe can do so. The resultant koa canoe, by tradition, is still a living thing and should be raced in both regatta and distance.

#67 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:14pm

If you do not mind - can you clarify what the traditional meaning of a 'living thing' is ?

The American flag is considered a living thing. A Koa canoe is considered a living thing.

What does this mean ? Living in a symbolic sense, living in the sense of the word ? Can someone give some cultural/language background for better understanding
- I' d appreciate it.

#68 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:08pm

Hey eckhart, long time no talk! The canoe in Old Hawaii was held with the utmost regard and respect. Because it came from a living tree, in the eyes of the Hawaiians, it remained a living being as a canoe and commanded the utmost regard and respect b/c once you left the shores, you depended on the canoe for your safe return. The canoe has ears, the pepeiau, or cleats that the seats are attached to are its ears. Any ill will spoken of the canoe would bring unfortunate circumstances to its crew, including failing to return its crew to shore. Today, the pepieau are a seperate piece attached (usually glued, screwed, or both) to the hull after the hull has been constructed. In days of Old, they were carved as part of the hull hence, were called pepeiau or ears, and knew when someone spoke ill of it. (This also shows they weren't placing the seats by trial and error!)

Respect included never jumping over the hull to get from one side to the other....ALWAYS walk around. Never step in, stand, or walk in the canoe. Doing so is disrespectful.

The canoe was never treated like an object...like a soccer ball you'd kick from one end of the field to the other. Goodwaka was correct earlier when he posted, "to lose the importance of mana (spirit) is to reduce the canoe to nothing more than a floating object." It is hurtful to me, to witness paddlers treating their canoe merely as floating objects. But it is rampant here. As my pure Hawaiian mentor, now passed over, told me...."now that you have been told, there is no excuse."

#69 Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:59pm

Thank you very much, Bill.

It does not need to be discussed that one respects local beliefs and customs; yet, we as guests do not share the same heritage or ancestry and it would not make much sense to pretend that we do, either.

In return, it does not make much sense to criticise paddlers that have not been raised in this tradition simply for that fact.

Hawaiian tradition meanwhile includes haole, for the better and for the worse. Time brings change. I think that those who want to emphasize the things of old should do that, and those who want to venture into new adventures should do that - I do not see a necessary conflict.

#70 Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:47am

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