U.S. Outrigger Canoe Championships Take Place in California

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Photo: Chris Silvester

Southern California Outrigger Racing Association (SCORA) hosts annual Catalina Crossing, Sept. 8-9

Outrigger canoe paddlers from throughout the United States and around the world will descend upon Newport Beach and Avalon this weekend for the annual U.S. Outrigger Canoe Championships. The race course runs between Newport Beach on the California mainland and Avalon, the largest town on Catalina Island. 

Women’s and coed crews have the honor of paddling 26 miles on Saturday, September 8th from Newport Beach to Avalon. Then on Sunday morning, the men’s crews race 30 miles back to the mainland, finishing inside Newport Beach harbor at the Newport Dunes resort.

History of outrigger canoe racing in California

The first outrigger race held in California took place on September 20, 1959. This competition was a long distance race from Avalon on Catalina Island to the Newport Dunes in the Newport Beach Back Bay. Duke Kahanamoku served as the Grand Marshall and is considered to be the founder of the Catalina to Newport Dunes race – previously known as the California Outrigger Classic, according to the SCORA website.

Two canoes competed in the initial race, both of which had been shipped to California from Hawaii. The Hawaiian outrigger canoes were heavy wood koa canoes. One was named Malia, meaning calm waters, and the other Niuhe, meaning shark

The Malia was paddled by a team of Hawaiian all-stars and the Niuhe crew was comprised of a collection of top paddlers from California. The Hawaiian team won the race in a time of 5 hours. The Niuhe finished  11 minutes behind.

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