What is Outrigger Canoe?

The outrigger canoe (Filipino and Indonesian: bangka; Māori: waka ama; Hawaiian: waʻa; Tahitian: vaʻa) is a type of canoe featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull. Smaller canoes often employ a single outrigger on the port side, while larger canoes may employ a single outrigger, double outrigger, or double hull configuration (see also catamaran). The sailing canoes are an important part of the Polynesian heritage and are actively raced and sailed in Hawaii and Tahiti.

Outrigger canoe racing has become a popular canoeing sport, with numerous clubs located around the world. Outrigger Canoe Racing is the State sport of Hawaii and an interscholastic high school sport. In Hawaii entire families participate in summer regattas with age groups from manini (children as young as 6 with an adult steersperson) and age 12 through age 60+.

Major races in Hawai'i include the Molokaʻi Hoe (43 mi/69 km men's race from the island of Molokaʻi to Oʻahu across the Kaiwi Channel), Na Wahine O Ke Kai (same race for women) and the Queen Liliʻuokalani Race held near Kona on the Island of Hawaiʻi.

Six person outrigger canoes (or OC6) are among the most common used for sport use; single person outrigger canoes (or OC1) are also very common. Two and four person outrigger canoes are also sometimes used, and two six person outrigger canoes are sometimes rigged together like a catamaran to form a twelve person double canoe.

Modern OC6 hulls and amas are commonly made from glass-reinforced plastic. However, some canoes are made of more traditional materials. In Ancient Hawaiʻi, canoes were carved from the trunks of very old koa trees. These canoes, although rare, are still very much in use today. The ʻiako are usually made of wood; the ʻiako-ama and ʻiako-hull connections are typically done with rope wrapped and tied in interlocking fashion to reduce the risk of the connection coming completely apart if the rope breaks.

Modern OC1 hulls and amas are commonly made from glass-reinforced plastic, carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and/or Kevlar to produce a strong but light canoe. OC1 are often made with rudders operated by foot pedals. More traditional designs do not have rudders. OC1 commonly use ʻiako made of aluminium, with a mechanism for quickly assembling and disassembling the canoe (snap buttons, large wing nuts, etc.).
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