Lanikai Outrigger Canoes, Kailua Oahu

Lanikai Outrigger Canoes at the Ready, Kailua Oahu

A colorful row of outrigger canoes–wa’a–adorns the grounds of the Lanikai in Kailua on Hawaii’s island of Oahu.

Each boat is given a name befitting its make, heritage, and team. The first boat in view bears a Hawaiian phrase, “Moku Ka Pawa,” meaning “the predawn darkness is breaking.”

These outrigger canoes–so called because of the long arm extending from the boat’s hull to steady it–are used by many teams to compete in races throughout the year. Hawaiians have been racing canoes for centuries and the tradition holds strong today. Outrigger training and racing is Hawaii’s most popular and participated in sport.

Seeing 6-person teams paddling through near shore waters is a beautiful, almost mesmerizing sight. Watching the same teams paddling long distances between islands in 10 foot swells is even more amazing. Then, to consider the courage of ancient Hawaiians in similar crafts hundreds of years going much farther distances with much less safety can be just inspiring.

For a quick example of some amazing paddling, check out this video promoting a recent race between the islands.

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