By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly
I’ve never really been a water baby — you know, one of those people that just loves the water and all sports associated with water. I’ve tried dragon boating, swimming, water skiing and others, but when it comes down to it frankly I suck at them. This is, of course, certainly not for a lack of Wonder Woman-caliber, Herculean athletic ability; I just sink like lead as soon as I’m immersed. However, this is the Pacific Northwest, and there are a ton of people who do not share my leaden composition and who are probably reading this right now their life vest, gloves, and Tevas on, with some sort of paddle at the ready beside them. With so much enthusiasm, I’ve wondered if I just haven’t found the right water sport for me — one that would be welcoming of everyone, even this leaden athlete?
It was when I heard of a club called CROCC, The Columbia River Outrigger Canoe Club, that I started rethinking this whole water sports thing. This is a local group that’s all about promoting the Hawaiian tradition of Outrigger Canoeing — but this particular club, at its core, is all about ‘Ohana’ or family. And, in that Ohana spirit, they’re welcoming of everyone regardless of age, physical ability, paddling skills or sexual identity/orientation.
Their mission: To encourage, sustain, and perpetuate outrigger canoe paddling, racing and the related Hawaiian traditions. They strive to embrace and nurture the community through inclusiveness and all skill levels in order to teach and improve paddling technique and to maximize enjoyment of the sport.
“We live up to our tag line of being ‘A paddling Ohana with Heart’ because we offer so much more than just paddling,” said CROCC President and Assistant Coach Doug Keeney. “We are an inclusive fun and welcoming club that strives to introduce people to the exciting sport of Hawaiian style Outrigger Canoeing.”
CROCC was founded in 1992 by Torey Browne and Cindy Scheer and was the first dedicated Outrigger Canoe Club in Portland and the Pacific Northwest. They do race, but not all members are competitive — and they’re just as welcoming of recreational paddlers who want to come out and enjoy the sport without the pressures of race training.
For those not familiar with outrigger canoes, there are different sizes which are typically categorized by how many people they hold. For example, an OC-6 (Outrigger Canoe) holds 6 people, is about 40 feet long and 2 feet wide. Then there are smaller boats, OC-2 which seats two people, an OC-1 which seats one and even a SUP or Stand up Paddle. Totally the one this sports columnist would take on — if anything just so I could paddle along on my SUP, nod to the ladies and say….S’up, you like my SUP?
The canoes are stabilized by an ama, which is a 10 foot long float which connects to the canoe by two wooden struts called iako. The paddlers sit in line, each facing toward the bow of the canoe. Each paddler has a specific role depending on where they sit in the canoe. For example the person in seat 1 is called the stoker, and sets the pace for the paddlers. The paddlers in seats 3 and 4 are typically the powerhouse of the canoe as they tend to be uber-strong. However, every position plays an important role in the canoe.
If you’re interested in racing, there’s really something for everyone. The race season is split into two groupings: Winter Series, which is dedicated to the small boats, and the Spring-Summer Series dedicated to the large boats. There is a further division of the Spring-Summer Series that allows for two different types of racing that covers sprints and distance. The Regatta/ Sprint style is sets of heats (races) that cover distances starting at 500 Meters, 1000 Meters, and 1500, Meters. They are fast-paced and exciting to watch. The other style is a distance race and covers distances anywhere from 8 miles at the start of the season to 26+ miles at the end of the season.
However, the technical details aside, people are drawn to this type of canoeing and CROCC in particular for more than just the sport. When asked why, Keeney remarked “It’s the sense of ‘Ohana’. It’s a feeling of love and support even if you’ve never worked with the crew before. Much of this feeling comes from the fact that you all are working towards a goal on the water. But this feeling of ‘Ohana’ extends way outside the club and its member to other clubs within the NW and beyond.”
CROCC is welcoming of all new paddlers — whether you’re a competitive or recreational spirit, keiki (youth) or kupuna (honored elder), they will welcome you with open paddles to their Ohana! Practices are held throughout the week ,so if you’re interested, just join them for a paddle and find out what family looks like on the water.
For more information about the club or the sport go to www.croccpaddle.com or contact Doug Keeney at firstname.lastname@example.org.