Outrigger Canoeing: A rookie wrinkly’s perspective

Having had a charity tennis tournament rained out this afternoon, I’m back home and watching the rain continue to dump on us, so it seems apt to talk about a water sport instead.

Back in October a friend invited me to try outrigger canoeing. If you’ve been to Hawai’i, or seen the closing credits for Hawaii Five-0, you’ll know the kind of canoe I mean … this kind:

Many years ago, I rowed in eights and fours in England (on the River Thames), even once taking part in the Head of the River race (which looked a little like this recent example); latterly, I’ve been more into enjoying ‘easy’ kayaking with Steve (we brought a couple of ocean kayaks with us to the island), so I was keen to give the traditional Hawaiian outriggers a go.

IMG_4302

HCC: River access is behind the building – turn right to head up river, or left to head out into Hanalei Bay

Luckily, I joined Hanalei Canoe Club (HCC) during the off-season, so I had a few months of recreational-level paddling with a small (i.e. ‘quality not quantity’) group who regularly go out on Monday and Friday mornings.

Since the paddling stroke is very different from rowing, this gave me a chance to learn the ropes and start to ‘educate’ the required muscles before the serious training began, which it did in February.

IMG_4300

Training sessions are now Monday and Wednesday evenings, and also Saturday mornings if there isn’t a race. As the season goes on, there will be a race or regatta on most Saturdays.

IMG_1489

Hanalei River passes through the Hanalei Wildlife Refuge and taro fields.

During winter months, we train up and down Hanalei River, but when the ocean calms down in the summer we’ll get out into Hanalei Bay.

We paddle in most weather conditions, wet or dry, so training is rarely canceled (unlike tennis)! It’s harder work on windy days and when the river is flowing fast, but on a good day (and there are plenty of those), the views are spectacular. Either way, it’s exhilarating and a great work-out. It’s also a very sociable activity, and it beats going to a gym.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my new sport, not just for the activity itself, but also for the friends I’ve made, and for all I’m learning about the tradition of the sport and Hawaiian culture. The club members are an enthusiastic and close-knit group. Everyone helps to lug all the canoes in and out of the water, and no one leaves until all the canoes are rinsed and stowed away under the building. Every training session ends with us all (30-35 paddlers on most days) gathering in a circle for announcements and the closing HCC Hawaiian chant.

During the season, there are all kinds of events, from long-distance ocean races to regattas that include quarter- or half-mile sprints. There are also many categories for a race: genders, age ranges, and rookies. The Novice A and B categories are for the rookies like me. It’s somewhat bizarre to be able to compete in a new sport when I’m almost past my sell-by date. 🙂

2013 is an especially exciting year for HCC, as it’s Kauai’s turn to host the State Championships in August, and I’m looking forward to being involved in some way or other. However, I cannot imagine participating in any long distance races, which are relays requiring team members to swap in and out of the canoe at intervals during the event! On those occasions I suspect I’ll restrict myself to the role of spectator and team support! 😉 (Here’s a video clip that shows what those swaps look like on the annual Na Pali Challenge, which starts in Hanalei Bay and heads west along the Na Pali coast down to Port Allen on the south of Kauai.)

Below is a brief gob-smacking look at the 2012 Na Wahine O Ka Kai event – a long distance women’s race from Molokai to O’ahu. The 2012 event was <um> pretty brutal! This clip shows the teams struggling to get out from the shore to the start line! 

No! I’m not in the running for any of our HCC teams for the 2013 Na Wahine O Ka Kai … and, if I had been, I definitely wouldn’t be after seeing this video! 🙂

 

Advertisements

Our albatross girls: futile not fertile


IMG_5681It seems that KP338 has finally decided enough is enough, and has left the nest that’s in our front yard.

She swapped with KP643 for the last time on March 12, and on that occasion they spent a particularly long time sitting side by side on the nest, ‘chatting’ together, and occasionally sitting up to look at, and chatter at, the egg.

Was it just my imagination or did I detect a worried look on their faces, and maybe frustration too?…

IMG_5672On the morning of March 14, I noticed 338 was standing over the egg for several minutes, with no sign of settling down; whereas usually, when a nesting bird needs a stretch, it’s a quick stand-up-shuffle-and-sit-down-again, to keep that precious egg warm.

By lunchtime she had left the nest, waddling around the front yard and back-and-forth across the driveway for a while, before settling down a few yards from the nest under the sago palm…yes, the same sago palm where both she and 643 had laid their eggs back on December 4 and 5, before 338’s egg rolled down the slope to its resting place nearer the garage.

IMG_5683

We won’t remove the egg yet (amazingly, it’s still whole after almost 3-and-a-half months!) unless of course it breaks and emits an unholy smell!

We’ll just let nature take its course. 338 is likely to  return to the nest a few times, even though she has now let the egg go cold. 643 might return, and they might still hang out in the neighborhood together for a while, just like our neighbor’s couple that I featured in my previous post.

If we’re lucky, they’ll treat us to some noisily entertaining and affectionate displays of their own, before eventually heading off to Alaska for the summer months.

I’m already looking forward to November, assuming they return for another try, when I’m hoping some randy male gets to one or other of them before they settle down together.

Laysan albatross couple dance like there’s nobody watching *

The couple in the video nested this year in a neighbor’s yard, but the egg wasn’t fertile and eventually broke, so now they’ve settled in the yard next door to their nest, and we see them almost daily displaying like this.

These displays are common among our neighborhood albatross at this time of year – either couples whose egg did not successfully hatch, like these two, or non-nesters seeking a partner for future years. Often, we also see larger groups of 4 to 6 adolescents ‘displaying’ together. It’s always fascinating to watch their moves!

Eventually this couple will fly north for the summer, but this continued ‘affection’ indicates that they plan to return to their nest, or close by, next year to try again.

* “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”  — William W. Purkey