World Ocean's Month Spotlight: Outrigger Canoe Paddling; A Story of Seafaring, Then and Now

World Ocean's Month Spotlight: Outrigger Canoe Paddling; A Story of Seafaring, Then and Now

In honor of World Ocean's Month, we're highlighting a tradition that was historically used to explore the world's oceans and has naturally brought communities together around the globe. We asked Annie Lovell, Member of the Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club, to share her knowledge about the sport's history and its influence on ocean communities, then and now.

Avasol is a proud partner of SBOCC and encourages groups both locally, in Santa Barbara and globally, around the world, that bring together communities through ocean activities and sustainable practices.

Guest blog article By Annie Lovell; Drone images courtesy of Kai Staal @kaistaal

Outrigger canoe paddling is a unique, niche sport with a long and vibrant history that spans many centuries across the world. The history of outrigger canoes traces its roots back to the ancient seafaring civilizations of Polynesia. The peoples of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, and other Pacific islands developed the unique watercraft, characterized by a lateral support float, which provided stability and balance in challenging ocean conditions. This ingenious design allowed early Polynesian explorers to navigate vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean, extending their reach to remote islands and establishing cultural connections across the Pacific.

Image: @kaistaal

As Polynesian seafarers migrated to new lands, outrigger canoe paddling evolved and adapted to different regions. In Hawaii, it became deeply intertwined with cultural and social practices in which outrigger canoe paddling transitioned from a means of transportation to a competitive sport. Competitions showcased the prowess of paddlers, fostering a sense of community and celebration. Tahitian paddling incorporates a spiritual dimension, in which ancient legends and myths are intertwined into the art of paddling. Over time, outrigger canoe paddling has spread beyond the Pacific, from Micronesia, Melanesia, Southeast Asia, each region incorporating new traditions that evolved outrigger canoe paddling into what it is today.

In the late 20th century, with increasing popularity of water sports, outrigger canoe paddling gained significant interest and the traditional craft found its way into the modern era. Organizations such as the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, Southern California Outrigger Racing Association, and the International Va'a Federation were established to organize races and promote outrigger canoe paddling as a competitive sport. Today, outrigger canoe paddling has become an internationally recognized sport, with competitions, clubs, and teams spanning from the Pacific, to Asia, Europe, Central and South America and attracting participants of all ages and backgrounds.

The enduring popularity of outrigger canoe paddling can be attributed to its remarkable fusion of physicality, culture, and camaraderie. It serves as a living testament to the resilience, skill, and connection to the natural environment that early seafaring cultures possessed. The sport continues to captivate the imagination of enthusiasts worldwide, offering a blend of athleticism, teamwork, and a deep appreciation for the ocean. As it progresses into the future, outrigger canoe paddling remains a vibrant reminder of cultural heritage as well as a small global community of ocean enthusiasts and a fun water sport.

Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club promotes the sport of outrigger canoe paddling for athletes and ocean lovers in the Santa Barbara community. Avasol has been supporting SBOCC by providing sunscreen to paddlers to keep them protected from the elements as the team spends many hours in the sun practicing in the Santa Barbara Channel and racing in California as well as other places around the world.

Matt Harris (adventures.on.c) is a surfer, fisherman, diver, paddler, ocean enthusiast - he is generally in the sun ALL day long! Avasol is part of his most trusted adventure gear - “it’s dependable and I trust the functionality inherently… I get the protection I need and don’t have to continually think about reapplying when out on the water.” 

Frankie Puerzer (@frankielovespugs) is an ocean lover and on the water as much as possible. “Sunscreen should smell like summer, and that's exactly how I feel every time I put Avasol on my face! I use it almost every day at work as a marine biologist and outside of work as a paddler, swimmer, surfer. My preference is the face stick which is tinted, compact and great for traveling around the world. It smells great and stays put on my face.”

Thank you Avasol for supporting our club and keeping us protected throughout our practices, races, and ocean play time with our paddling ohana. 

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