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18.Some Fundamentals

Understanding Some Fundamentals | 275

Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

‘This may come as a surprise, but canoe and kayak paddling, together with rowing are the only sports where all participants are required to do the same thing, all at the same time. Well, unless you include bobsledding and anyway, that’s on hard water!’ Terry Wallace. There are some fundamentals paddle skills, commands and seat position rolls you should know. With regards to paddle skills, while this is generally termed 'technique', the 'how to' element of paddling, this will ultimately be affected by your individual 'style'. Your style, is an unavoidable consequence of your unique biomechanical and physiological make-up, which need not be a hindrance to sound technique, indeed some paddlers excel at being less conventional than others. Provided sound principles are being met then there is no reason why good should not make for a good paddler. A the same time, you will need to consider how efficient your technique is maximum return on minimal output equates to efficiency of energy expenditure. Paddling drills are a great way to learn biomechanical movement. It is important that you understand some basic theory regarding the stroke and how this converts into moving the wa`a forward. Facts without thought will slow your learning process.

Sit and Switch The Sit and Switch technique is used for wa`a paddling to avoid fatigue building up on one side of the body. It is highly effective for this form of endurance paddling. Knowing when to change paddling sides is an art and not always determined by fatigue levels, though its preferable to change before fatigue and lactate build up occurs.(See ‘Calling the Huts’) Essentially a call of ‘hut’ is made on the penultimate stroke, as it enters the water you take that stroke, then another, then change sides in unison. The number of strokes per side can vary, with as few as 10 and up to 25, depending on the circumstances. Below: seat # 5 has changed early to protect the ama. Seat # 5 need not adhere to the call and must act instinctively or at the command of the steerer.

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Seat # 1 is the most forward paddler. Seats # 1, 3, 5 paddle on the same side. Seats # 2, 4 paddle together on opposite sides to 1, 3, 5. Seats # 1, 2 change sides when rounding markers to assist steerer. Seat # 5 may change sides randomly to protect the ama from capsize. The steerer paddles and steers on either side as required.

General Terms for Noho - The Seats Seating positions within the wa`a can be thought of in terms of fractional components; Sixths Thirds The Sum of the Whole Forward Paddlers Middle Paddlers Rear paddlers

The individual paddler and their unique role. Paddlers forward, middle and rear of i`ako The entire crew. Set the pace and cadence. Provide power and stability. Provide power, steering and stability.

Terry Wallace, from the island of Hawai`i, provides traditional insight regarding seating positions. 'The seats have different names according to where they are located

within the canoe. The following are Kona generic terms and may be different on other islands.’

Noho `Ekahi (noh-ho eh-kah-hee) Seat #1 Also called Mua (moo-uh) which means front or forward. Also called ka`i (kahee) - the leader of a procession and Hana Pa`a, which literally means steady work. This is not a power seat. Sets the pace of the stroke. Should know instinctively whether the pace is 60 strokes per minute, 70 strokes per minute, or whatever. Also helps steer from the front, especially during sudden changes of direction by reaching with the paddle kahi (kah-hee = cut) and executing an uni Seating Positions | 277

Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

(oo-nee), levering the blade into the side of the wa`a. (Note: some call uni, 'u-nay', but there is no such word or pronunciation in the Hawaiian language.) Must be constantly alert to what is ahead; swimmers, rocks etc. Depending on the team, mua sometimes calls changes. Will often call a change of stroke timing, faster or slower. Mua must keep strokes straight back as opposed to following the contour of the canoe to avoid turning the bow. This allows the steerer to paddle more and steer less. (Must be self motivated, posses the ability to stay focused, be sensitive to the nuances of the canoeĘźs travel and speed over the water, and its interaction with the water relative to wind, waves and current altering the stoke rate to suit. An aerobically demanding seat, strokes are generally of lighter build than others in the wa`a.)

Noho `Elua (noho eh-loo-uh) Seat # 2 Means second. Assists by coaching #1 with timing. Assists turning canoe from the front when necessary. When the wa`a is stationary, keeps left hand on front i`ako to avoid huli. (Must be well disciplined in matching exactly the entry and exit phase of the stroke paddle. Any variance in timing, will cause paddlers along one side of the wa`a to be either slower or faster than the other. Must be able to encourage the stroke. Calls the time when paddlers change paddling sides with the call of hut)

Noho `Ekolu or (noho eh-koh-loo) Seat # 3 Sometimes called Kahea (kah-hay-uh) which means caller or announcer. On some teams `Ekolu calls changes. Part of the engine room with power. Concentrates on moving the wa`a forward.

Noho `Eha (noho eh-hah) Seat # 4 Means four or fourth. The other part of the engine room. Also concentrates on moving canoe forward. Often Ke ka, the bailer in long distance races. When the wa`a is stationary, places left hand on rear i`ako to keep from huli. (Occupied by the heaviest, strongest paddlers, these seats are often referred to as the power seats‚ the engine room. Seat # 4 is generally responsible for the bailing of the wa`a.) 278 | Seating Positions

Noho `Elima (no-ho eh-lee-mah) Seat # 5 Also called Pani (pah-nee) or steerers substitute or assistant steerer. Keeps a vigilant eye on the ama. May have to sacrifice body by jumping on rear i`ako to keep canoe from huli. Often bails - Ke ka. Helps to steer when required, usually in large waves. Would take over steering if ho`okele is unable to steer or man overboard! (Another power seat, number 5 will often bail when needed and provide some steering assistance for the primary steerer in extreme cases. Also known as the keeper of the ama, ensuring that the ama remains safe. In rough waters, the paddler can choose to remain on the ama side rather than change sides on the call and steer if needed.)

Noho `Eono (no-ho eh-oh-no) Seat # 6 Ho`okele or steerer.


Sometimes called Papaki`i (papa-kee-ee) literally means sit flat. Uses a different paddle from the rest of the crew called uli (oolee). Be careful with this word! It is pronounced differently from the word ule (oolay) which means penis. The captain of the wa`a. Keeps poe wa`a (crew) moving forward and focusing on the job. Must be constantly alert to all conditions affecting the wa`a including wind, waves, and other wa`a. Also paddles whenever possible. The steerer始s role is vital to the safety and well being of the wa`a and crew. They are, in legal terms, the captain and therefore must take responsibility for many issues of safety in terms of the navigation and handling of the wa`a. The prime motivator in the wa`a, they need to develop a keen sense of understanding of the nuances of the wa`a and how it interacts with the ocean.

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Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

Think Your Way to Better Paddling There are literally hundreds of texts in existence which describe the basic mechanics of the forward stroke as it applies to wa`a paddling. While paddling is very much a physical activity, the world’s best paddlers, without exception, apply a good deal of thought and mental calculation to each and every stroke they take. They are perceptive to the progress of the wa`a and its glide through the water either by feel or in relation to a competitor or perhaps a land based object. The most fundamental understanding you need to firmly establish in your thinking is that you will not be pulling the paddle through the water towards you. You will be pulling your hips up to the blade and with it, the wa`a. In terms of creative visualisation, think of your wa`a on rails and the paddles are a series of poles cemented into the seabed. You are going to reach out, grab a pole and pull yourself up to the pole, pulling the wa`a along with you. Like most things, there are efficient ways to do this and not so efficient ways.

Purchasing a Paddle Purchasing a paddle is a significant event and this should be done with consideration to club / team protocol regarding technique taught and preference. Discuss it with your coach or experienced paddlers, ie single or double bend. Donʼt rush into this and ensure in the learning phase that you have a well designed paddle of appropriate length. It is an unfortunate reality that many novice paddlers are expected to learn with club paddles which are often utterly ineffectual and therefore discouraging.

Blade Width Generally speaking, a larger blade area (Width 9.25"-10") is preferable when learning in order to ‘feel’ resistance without having to apply bucket loads of power. Small blade areas (Width 9.25" downwards) as used by many top crews, require explosive power and fine control for maximum results. The optimal blade size you can ‘handle’ is directly proportional to your body weight and strength (strength endurance not ‘raw’ strength) and this then relates to whether you are paddling distance or sprints. The blade acts in the water as an ʻanchorʼ and depending on a number of factors, there should be little or no slippage of the blade through the water. The shaft is used for leverage in relation to the placement of the hands and the application of force. The blade is anchored and the objective is to pull the wa`a up to the blade.

Smaller, lightweight paddlers and in particular women and juniors, will tend to favour smaller blade areas, while larger, heavier individuals will tend to favour larger blade areas. Some paddlers prefer to ‘rate high’ (strokes per minute) and will choose a smaller blade area, while others who prefer a slow rate will choose a larger blade area. This can be a facet of relative levels of fitness, age or genetics, i.e. fast or slow 280 | Think Your Way to Better Paddling | Paddle Purchase | Blade Width

twitch muscle types in particular. Regardless, team wa`a paddling requires synchronicity of timing - paddles in and out together. For distance paddling shorter paddle lengths (total length of shaft and blade) provide greater leverage in relation to their centre of resistance and are therefore easier to use over extended distances and times. Smaller blade area and greater angle relative to the shaft are preferred. Shorter paddle lengths allow higher stroke rates to be achieved. For sprints, longer shaft, larger blade area and less angle relative to the shaft can be used.

Holding the Paddle Grip the lower shaft approximately one hand span up from the neck of the paddle. Place top hand on grip. Lower hand can be raised or lowered in some paddling circumstances, usually no more than two hand spans up from the neck. Fingers should be spread marginally and the shaft only very lightly gripped. Don’t squeeze as this will increase fatigue in your forearm. The shaft should be neither too wide nor too narrow. As your strength and experience increase, it’s possible to move your lower hand further up the lower shaft to increase potential leverage. Greater experience will lead to your moving your grip on the shaft to suit the conditions. In this image, high, lower hand placement is being used to maximise leverage inherent in the length of the shaft. Small blade areas offer less resistance and drag. The shorter blade height naturally tends to allow the lower hand to be higher up on the shaft relative to the neck of the blade. The paddler maintains a grip distance between grip and lower hand that is approximately shoulder width.

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Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

Phases of the Forward Stroke The key components of the forward stoke can be broken up into 6 distinct phases; 1. Set Up / Windup 2. Entry 3. Catch 4. Pull Through / Power Phase 5. Exit 6. Recovery

Maximum rotation / reach prior to blade entry. Placement of blade in water. Loading of the blade. Pull applied to the blade. Removal of blade from water at end of stroke. The swing through to set up.

Commands Wind Off Paddles Up Reach Out Kaupe E hoʼomakaukau Ko Imua Push Go Now Back Paddle Hold Water Draw Left/Right

Stop Paddling Stop Paddling Get Ready [Set up] Reach Out Get Ready Pull back the blade Paddle Paddle Hard Paddle Hard Reverse Paddle Brake Stroke Draw Stroke [Seats 1 and 2]

Drills Dry Land Session

Wa`a can be raised on tyres. Paddlers in seats # 1 through 6 and set up in an appropriate manner, with paddles left, right, left, right along the wa`a. Paddlers reach out (correct their posture - ensuring legs are correctly positioned as well as their grip on the paddle). When set, Waikiki Surf Club junior training day. proceed to make the call of Paddle. Watch and make corrections as needed. Practice the sit and switch. Have paddler’s take turns in calling the hut. Pendulum Drill

Paddle is swung forward as per the recovery phase, lower hand releases midway and paddle continues forwards controlled by the 282 | Phases of the Forward Stroke | Commands | Drills

top hand only. Continue through recovery motion, paddle will swing away from paddler then return where it is ‘caught’ with the lower hand and the stroke taken again repeated. This works on fine-motor skills and control of the paddle and the recovery phase. Can be done on dry land or water. Paddling One Side

Have paddlers, all on one side of the wa`a, paddling in unison. Good for emphasizing timing, entry and exit phases of the stroke. Ballet

Pause at the set up, emphasis on correct start /end position of stroke and timing and length of stroke. Eyes Closed

Emphasis on timing and feel for boat run and movement. No Huts

Paddlers count and change on a given number of strokes (no caller). Discipline training and concentration.

Notes on Coaching In a coaching situation, it would be preferable prior to going on water to have ensured that the basic rigging process, lifting and carrying procedure has been taught and demonstrated. Prior to moving to actual paddling technique tuition, capsize drill should also be taught first. From a coach’s standpoint, you will be able to assess the confidence of the paddlers in such a situation and it allows the point to be made that this is a water sport and that wa`a do capsize. These pre-requisites are largely concerned with safety and therefore preliminary introductory skills. Some clubs as a matter of course require a ‘swim test’ and won’t just accept your word that you can swim. Sequential Methodology: As in most forms of teaching and learning, a logical

progression is required moving from simple to more complex tasks. In this case, you are progressing from basic gross motor control to the finer points of refinement, to ultimately strive for greater efficiency. Remember, facts need thoughts behind them for true learning to occur. Demonstration is the best way to illustrate good paddling technique in combination with video footage. Have this available as a resource, run it and point out key components of the stroke. Move from this to demonstration within the wa`a (land based or on water).

Demonstrate the five phases of the wa`a paddling stroke with explanation about the nature and purpose of each. Remember, fact without thought will not stimulate understanding.

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Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

South Head, Hamilton Island, Australia. At this level of paddling in these conditions, clear communication from the steerer or between paddlers could be critical. Key words are essential in keeping communication brief and to the point. Failure to keep power to the blade is also a critical error. Total commitment is required without hesitation.


The Importance of Leg Work While strong legs are essential, they are little use if you cannot effectively brace yourself in the seat. Being unable to lock-in and drive the energy down into the wa`a is essential. Sit at an angle so you are facing marginally outward, between 5º and 10º, away from the side you are paddling on. This has the effect of pushing the upper part of your hip against the wa`a hull, while on the non-paddling side your thigh can brace up against the hull. (Padding on the inside of the wa`a can prevent chaffing.) This method also prevents the paddler from over-rotating at the end of the stroke and as a result pulling too far back during the power phase of the stroke. It also increases the paddler’s reach at the entry point of the stroke.

The paddler is seated ʻsquareʼ on the seat Paddler has altered position to be and is bracing herself by forcing both legs sitting ʻangledʼ on the seat. This apart and against the canoe hull. provides greater support from both sides of the canoe against outer leg The front foot supports the body during and bottom. Greater forward reach the reach. can also be achieved without having The rear foot should transfer the bulk of to hyperextend. the residual drive from the power phase In the case of the six person wa`a, (pull) to the hull floor in a backwards direction, driving the hull forwards. Most paddler body weight and the energy of the energy transfered from the paddle transference along the paddle, down the terminates at seat level. arms to the seat, is dissipated down the

legs through the feet and out the floor Importance of Leg Work | 285

Understanding Some Fundamentals | Outrigger Canoeing 'A Paddler's Guide'

of the wa`a. Therefore, the legs play an important (often overlooked) role in team wa`a paddling. The feet must have good traction and be firmly braced so energy transfer to the canoe is maintained and not wasted. This has been increasingly acknowledged and many paddlers’ training now involves leg work (bike riding or running) to strengthen leg muscles. Strong legs are essential in ensuring that the energy in pulling the canoe up to the blade is transferred to the canoe hull through the seat and legs. Legs should be proportionally as strong and fit as the upper body. This isn’t to say the legs have to be big, as this will only add additional body weight which is not always desirable. Your legs and seat provide the ‘gearing’ which connects the horsepower from your blade to the wa`a. Strong, fit legs are essential and must not be overlooked in a paddlers training regime. Weak legs can be the weak link between upper torso strength, powerful technique and energy transference to the wa`a. Palau Art

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Fundamentals of Outrigger Canoeing  

Some basic fundamental of outrigger canoeing.

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