Having been a canoe paddler and kayaker since I was able to ride on the lap of my father down the Black River or Flambeau River of Wisconsin, there was one canoe ride that I had on my bucket list for many a decade. Now in my second year living in the Hawaiian Islands, I have checked that bucket list activity off my list, an outrigger canoe ride on Oahu on its beautiful Waikiki Beach.
In Hawaiian, these slender, hydrodynamically efficient canoes are called wa’a. Unlike the canoe and kayak counterparts that I have become used to, the outrigger canoes have a stabilizer (outrigger) to make it capable of being paddled or sailed in rough water. Since this is a crucial part of the Polynesian heritage and reason for the Hawaiians arriving and settling where I call home, I had to do it.
With another four adventurers and a trusty, yet bossy captain, I became part of the team in launching the outrigger from Waikiki Beach. Right in front of the superhuman statue of Duke, the man responsible for spreading surfing globally, I took hold of the handle, hit the surf, and climbed in. Immediately the captain, who as I said was more on the surly pirate side of the personality scale, barked out orders giving each of us numbers to dictate who paddled on which side and how hard while he maintained the direction and timing. On a day with onshore winds and little swell, it was a good setting for my virgin outrigger experience. All we had to do was follow orders. I had always been good at Simon Says.
With Diamondhead watching our progress, the captain commanded us to past the breaking waves. There we waited for the right beginner wave. As he ordered for us to paddle backwards, the outrigger turned around and came into position. The captain asked us to prepare. As the sound of the wave became louder, so did the barking orders of paddle, harder, faster, faster, faster, until we caught the wave. Effortlessly, we surfed passing (or better said dodging) swimmers and surfers.
It was an amazing ride. Like sailing and wind, the outrigger used the power of the wave to move forward, faster than we could ever paddle. However, there was no fighting the force of the wave once we started. With little kid excitement, I smiled as the captain said, “Right on. Let’s do it again!”
Although my experience was only an hour with optimal conditions, I bow to the Polynesians. Without the skinny design of the hull in combination with the addition of the outriggers, it would have been impossible to accomplish the amazing feat of sailing to the Hawaiian Islands seventeen hundred years ago. Mind you this was with twenty-seven plants for survival along for the ride. Ho’omaika’i ‘ana (congrats) and mahalo (thank you)!
This was only a taste of some of the water activities and outdoor adventures that I have experienced in the Hawaiian Islands. Check out my night scuba dive in Kona, kayaking to Kipu Kai on Kauai, and interview about hiking the Kalalau Trail.
All of these adventures have been sparked by a change in lifestyle that I embraced after nearly losing my life in 2009. I documented this transformation in my first book, When All Balls Drop. It is a down-to-earth account of my recovery and the beginnings of my Life 2.0. This month, my second book is available, With New Eyes, which picks up where my first left off. It includes skydiving, traveling to South America solo, learning to SUP, and many mishaps along the way. In it, I reveal why adventure is my meditation. To get a copy of each, click on the title, When All Balls Drop and With New Eyes.
Here’s to more good times and good stories.