Outrigger Orientation

Ho’o mau kau kau?” Gary Saldana calls from his perch in a six-man outrigger canoe.

By: By Catharine Lo


Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Outrigger paddling lessons run Monday-Friday from 7–10 a.m. in the bay fronting the resort. Children ages 9 and up may participate; only children ages 12 and up are allowed to paddle. Lessons accommodate up to four guests at a time.

Clients hang loose in an outrigger paddling canoe on Maui // (c) Catherine Lo 2008Ho’o mau kau kau?”

Gary Saldana calls from his perch in a six-man outrigger canoe.

“Ae!” the paddlers respond, each holding his paddle out like a barbell. This signals that, yes, they are ready.

On Gary’s command —“Imua!” — blades extend and paddlers move their paddles forward and back, their torsos twisting in unison.

They’re doing everything right, but not getting anywhere. That’s because, actually, the canoe is still on the beach.

This is the demonstration part of the Four Seasons Outrigger Canoe Program, a unique opportunity for resort guests and visitors at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

Outrigger paddling is Hawaii’s official team sport, and each summer, paddlers compete in weekend regattas. Given the cost and manpower necessary to maintain the massive koa wood and fiberglass canoes, visitors don’t really have a chance to engage in the popular sport.

In 2001, after stressing to the state the importance of educating visitors about the tradition, the Four Seasons was granted a special permit that supersedes the law prohibiting skippered vessels from operating from Wailea Beach. The hotel agreed to keep the program free and open to the public and today, it is one of two Maui resorts where clients can learn about outrigger paddling firsthand. The Fairmont Kea Lani also offers a similar program.

Our lesson proved successful when we launched the 400-pound fiberglass canoe into the ocean. As we paddled, steersman Robert Baclig gave us a brief history of these islands, calling to mind a time when Polynesians relied on outrigger canoes for fishing and inter-island voyaging.

“I’ve seen people paddling the canoes around the island, and I’m thrilled to try it,” said visitor Mara Pike, who undauntedly jumped into the deep blue sea for a quick dip. “Seeing Maui from this point of view is spectacular.”