Canoe blessing at the Lanakila Outrigger Canoe Club.
This past summer I had the opportunity to attend my first canoe blessing with my outrigger club, Lanakila, in Redondo Beach. The blessing was simple, yet deeply moving and inspiring as the club’s leaders spoke reverently of the individual for whom the new canoe was named and the beauty of paddling on the open ocean. Afterwards, I started to wonder what, if any, traditions the sport of stand up paddling would adopt. Would a brief ceremony similar to a canoe blessing work and be accepted by the SUP community?
The concept of blessing a watercraft is deeply rooted in seafaring tradition around the world. Pacific-Islander culture is rich with traditions when it comes to outrigger canoes. Similarly ocean-going vessels are typically christened in grand fashion, often times by breaking a bottle of champagne on the ship’s bow.
Not long after the canoe blessing at Lanakila, an Instagram post from The Paddle Academy caught my eye. The photograph had been taken by none other than Mike Muir and showed a group of young paddlers gathered around what was presumably a new SUP with a caption referencing their tradition of the Blessing of the Boards.
I emailed Mike and Jamie Eisert, The Paddle Academy’s coaches, and inquired about the background behind the photo. What was the Blessing of the Boards and had they found a way to instill a tradition into the young sport of SUP?
The Paddle Academy was founded with the overarching goal of passing on the traditions, lifestyle and culture of paddlesports through experienced instruction and passionate mentoring. With these themes in mind, Mike and Jamie had thoughtfully incorporated the Blessing of the Boards into their curriculum from Day One.
Danny Ching was able to witness a Blessing of the Boards first hand when he dropped off a new 404 board last September. Photo: Mike Muir
“It’s important that our values as well as blessings for safety, strength, love and respect for the ocean are carried along on each board that hits the water. The kids get it. The blessings bestowed upon our athletes’ boards and them always bring chills and goosebumps to my skin as we typically will have as many groms as possible gather around, place their hand on the board and then lead the team with the message and well wishes in their own words,” Mike told me.
The ceremony teaches the young paddlers the importance of showing respect for their board, to the shapers who made it, and to each piece of their equipment which enables them to have fun on the water. “These groms understand that as with a canoe or any craft they are on, their boards are an extension of themselves to the ocean and are to be treated with kindness and care,” said Mike.
About The Paddle Academy
Located in the scenic Southern California beach community of Dana Point, a mecca for stand up paddling, The Paddle Academy was the first formal training program specifically tailored to serve the needs of young paddlers. Founded by Mike Eisert and Jaime Donnelly-Eisert with the goal of passing on the traditions, lifestyle and culture of paddlesports through experienced instruction and passionate mentoring, The Paddle Academy offers a variety of programs from their widely popular Junior SUP Development Program conducted in a group setting to one-on-one training. Learn more at: www.thepaddleacademy.net