Photography by Steve Dickinson
Outrigger canoe racing is a way of life in Tahiti, where everyone seems to paddle, or at the very least has an opinion to about this sport with deep cultural roots throughout Polynesia. On Tahiti, the marquee race is the Tahiti Nui Vaâ€™a, a three-day, 105-mile circuit of the island.
Canoes charge off the beach at Mahina on the north shore of Tahiti, bound for Vairao 43.5 miles to the southeast. Below, a crew from Shell Vaâ€™a, the most dominant team in the history of outrigger sport, leads the pack.
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Canoes gather in Tautira for the second day of racing, a 28.5-mile sprint from Vairao to Tautira. In Tahiti, where three-fourths of the population lives within easy walking distance of the ocean, big fields are common at canoe races. More than 700 paddlers competed in the 2013 edition of the Tahiti Nui Vaâ€™a.
A rainbow frames the crews as they begin the final day of racing. Over three days, the canoes race 105 miles and make a complete circumnavigation of Tahiti.
Home Team: Girlfriends and wives cheer for Shell Vaâ€™a. More than 200 women also competed in the event.
A canoe skirts close to breaking surf. The race passes several well-known surf spots, including the famously heavy Teahpoâ€™o early on the second day.
Paddlers bail out during a planned crew change. The Tahiti Nui Vaâ€™a is a change race, meaning teams of nine paddlers compete, with six in the canoe at any given time. Making smooth and quick crew changes is a critical component of success.