There has been a significant increase in interest in outrigger paddling the past few years. Many standup paddlers are expanding their horizons by trying outrigger canoeing, particularly in coastal regions home to an established network of outrigger clubs. Within the outrigger community itself, more paddlers have had the opportunity to travel and compete in exotic far away lands, most notably Tahiti, home to a strong outrigger paddling culture.
The internal movement within the paddling community has in some ways reintroduced and brought new popularity to a broad variety of paddling traditions. None is perhaps more prominent than the V-1 canoe. Often referred to simply as a rudderless by OC-1 paddlers, the V-1 is more than just a Hawaiian style OC-1 without a rudder. To gain a deeper understanding of the differences I had a chat with Ryland Hart, a fellow paddler at the Lanakila Outrigger Canoe Club, who has competed on both OC-1 and V-1 in international competitions.
What was it like to compete in Tahiti and experience a new paddling culture?
Tahiti was super cool! It was also very different. The type of paddling we have here [California] is mainly from the Hawaiian origin. We have the rudders. A lot of Spec [OC-6] canoes, although we are adopting more and more of the Unlimited canoes. Our OC-1s are all ruddered boats, whereas in Tahiti they are focused on the V-1 and their six man canoes are kind of different. It was really nice to go over there and experience a different side of the paddling culture.
The racing scene is also so much bigger over there. The race I traveled to last summer is the largest junior’s race in Tahiti. I looked around on the start line and it was somewhere between 100-150 kids wide…and there were three rows of canoes on the line! So there were at least 300-400 kids taking part in the race!!
By comparison, at the Molokai solo there will be around 150 paddlers in the entire race, not just counting the juniors. People I met told me there is a canoe race every weekend in Tahiti. Sometimes even more than one.
What are the Tahitian’s thoughts about the OC-1 and what are the origins of the V-1?
A lot of it is cultural. Some of it is national pride between Tahiti and Hawaii which draws out the different paddling styles. The Tahitians are very open to trying new craft and experimenting. They are interested in the ultra-light Unlimited canoes. They are also experimenting with the OC-1 concept and send a couple of their top V-1 paddlers over to Hawaii each year to compete in the Molokai solo. The Tahitians are super interested in pushing the limits of outrigger paddling and demonstrating their skills across the different paddle craft.
So the paddling culture is really dominant in Tahiti?
For sure. Everyone pretty much paddles. For fun, for sport, just an everyday activity. Everyone pretty much does it. Definitely their biggest sport. There are some soccer teams due to the French influence in Tahiti, but basically if you are not at soccer practice then you’re out paddling! The cultural aspect is also very different. A handful of Tahitian races even stipulate paddlers wear traditional attire. It was interesting to see how they took paddlers who are super into the racing side and make them focus on the cultural aspects.
We have a bit of the Hawaiian paddling culture, but most of us don’t really know it, so it isn’t as big a part of our paddling community here.
Do you have a preference between the OC-1 and V-1 and do you think the V-1s might become more commonplace outside of Tahiti?
The two canoes are so different. I would love to see more V-1s in California if for no other reason than to show people there are more styles of paddling. We are starting to see the Tahitian culture filter in more and more. The larger Tahitian style paddles have become popular and Johnny [Puakea] is teaching the Tahitian style stroke. Learning how to paddle a V-1 will improve your overall paddling ability a lot. You have to be really on top of your game when paddling a canoe without a rudder. I’ve noticed my OC-1 paddling has improved significantly because I have a better understanding of how the canoe is going to respond in different conditions, based on my V-1 paddling experience.
The V-1 can be difficult, especially when it is super windy. You can take an OC-1 in 30+ winds and go out and handle the conditions. Compare that to a V-1 and you would be paddling primarily on one side, the deep, open cockpit is going to fill up with water… So there are definitely times where an OC-1 might be a better choice. Then if you are paddling in flat water, shallow, over reefs or small lined up bumps, the V-1 is super good.
Tupuria King paddling a V-1 in the Wild Buffalo Relay. Photo: Will Reichenstein
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