By Luke Evslin
Most Kaua‘i residents only get to experience a tiny fraction of our island home. All of us live within three miles of the ocean — yet, we spend more time sitting in traffic than we do in the sea. It’s always there, beckoning us to get in, but we rarely heed the call.
And we’re making a tragic mistake.
But there is a remedy. Every corner of Kaua‘i has a community outrigger canoe club. By joining a club, you can push off from the beach and get to know the ocean that surrounds us. You can be part of an integral aspect of Hawaiian tradition and history. And you will be doing all of that while getting fit and meeting new people.
The outrigger-canoeing season runs from February through October every year. Every club has a novice program which is catered to first year paddlers, an open program for experienced paddlers, and age divisions for 12 year-olds through kupuna 60 years old and beyond.
There are pre-season long distance races every other weekend until May. These races are catered toward more experienced paddlers, but novice paddlers often get to jump in, weather permitting.
Then, from May through August there are sprint-style regatta races. The early races are out of Kalapaki while the latter ones are in Hanalei. Each division has its own race — novices will race novices, kids will race kids, and kupuna will race kupuna.
And then the final season, the long-distance season, runs from August through its culmination with the Molokai Hoe on the second week of October.
All open and novice paddlers are encouraged to join a club as soon as possible, and kids (18 and under) begin to come out in late March or early April.
Each canoe club has practice paddles that you can borrow. Annual membership fees are between $150 and $200. So as long as you know how to swim and have clothes that can get wet, you’re good to show up at any of the local clubs. Adult practice for all of them starts at 5 p.m. Check out each club’s website for info on the beginning of the keiki season.
On the North Shore, you have a choice between Hanalei and Namolokama canoe clubs. Both are on Hanalei River at the end of Weke Road. Both clubs have men’s practice Tuesday and Thursday and women’s practice Monday and Wednesday.
Hokualele Canoe Club paddles out of Anahola off of Aliomanu Road. Men and women practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Hui o Mana Ka Pu‘uwai and Kawaikini canoe clubs paddle out of Wailua River, at the end of Wailua Road opposite Coco Palms. Practice at Pu‘uwai for men and women is Tuesday and Thursday. Kawaikini is a recreational club, and practice is at 8:15 a.m. Sunday.
Niumalu Canoe Club paddles out of Kalapaki beach. Men and women practice Monday and Wednesday.
Kaiola Canoe Club paddles out of Niumalu Park at the end of Niumalu Road. The men’s practice is Monday and Wednesday, and the women’s practice is Tuesday and Thursday.
Koloa Canoe club paddles out of Koloa Landing, with practice for men and women Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.
Kukui‘ula Canoe Club paddles out of Kukui‘ula Small Boat Harbor. Men’s practice is Tuesday and Thursday and women’s practice is Monday and Wednesday.
West Kaua‘i Canoe Club paddles out of the Hanapepe River mouth at the end of Iona Road. Men and women paddle Tuesday and Thursday.
Kilohana Canoe Club paddles out the Waimea River mouth at the end of Alawai Road. Men and women paddle Monday and Wednesday starting April 1.
Email Kaua‘i Outrigger Association at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on any of the clubs.
- Luke Evslin is an avid life-long outrigger canoe paddler. He is the co-owner of Kamanu Composites, an O‘ahu-based outrigger canoe manufacturing company, and can be reached at email@example.com or at 635-6623.