Outrigger canoeing is a sport in which an outrigger canoe (vaʻa, waʻa, and waka ama in Tahitian, Hawaiian, and Māori languages, respectively; similar words are used in other Polynesian languages) is propelled by means of paddles. Its umbrella organisation is the International Vaʻa Federation (IVF, formerly International Polynesian Canoe Federation or IPCF). Outrigger canoeing has grown from its roots in Polynesia to become a very popular paddling sport, with numerous sporting and social clubs located around the world. Sporting clubs are also often involved with dragon boat racing.
A variety of boat types exist, including the OC1, OC2, OC3, OC4 and OC6 (with the respective number of paddlers using a single hull outrigger canoe), and the DC12 or OC12 (with twelve paddlers using a double hull outrigger canoe, two six person canoes rigged together like a catamaran). The shorthand form is also commonly written as V1, V2, V6, etc. (where V refers to vaʻa).
Single hull outrigger canoes have an ama (outrigger float) connected to the main hull by spars called ʻiako (Hawaiian), ʻiato (Tahitian), or kiato (Māori). The ama, which is usually rigged on the left side, provides stability. The paddlers need to be careful to avoid leaning too far on the opposite side of the ama, as that may cause the canoe to capsize (huli or lumaʻi).
There are also outrigger sailing canoes ranging from smaller three or four person canoes to large voyaging canoes. Sailing canoes may have one ama, two amas (one on each side, but only one side is normally in contact with the water), or a double hull configuration (like a catamaran).
[Paddling roles In an outrigger canoe the paddlers sit in line, facing toward the bow of the canoe (i.e. forward, in the direction of travel, unlike rowing). The seats are numbered from 1 (closest to the bow) to the number of seats in the canoe, usually 6. The steerer (or steersman or steersperson) sits in the last seat of the canoe (seat 6 in the common OC6) and, as the name indicates, is primarily responsible for steering. The paddler sitting in seat 1 is called the stroke (or stroker) and is responsible for setting the pace of the paddle strokes. The stroker should have a high level of endurance to keep the rate (the number of strokes taken in a given amount of time) manageable for whatever the situation may be. The first two positions may also be involved in certain steering manoeuvers. This usually involves the draw stroke. During a tight turn the one seat might poke to make the canoe turn the opposite way.
In an OC1, the single paddler must also steer the canoe. Some OC1s have rudders operated by foot pedals, while OC1s without rudders must be steered by drawing and paddling as needed for steering purposes while paddling to move the canoe forward.
[Steerers A good steerer is able to maintain the straight attitude of the canoe throughout the course of a race, and also keep the boat and the crew safe in rough sea conditions. S/he may also take advantage of water conditions to gain extra speed by surfing. The steerer uses a single bladed steering paddle which has a larger blade than a standard outrigger paddle, is built stronger, and has less or no bend in its shaft. S/he steers by the following methods:
- Poking: holding the paddle vertically against the side of the canoe, causing drag on that side to cause the canoe to turn that direction. (left to go left and right to go right)
- Drawing: paddling at a 45 to 90 degree angle to pull water under the canoe, causing the canoe to turn the opposite direction.
- Posting: holding the paddle in the water out to the side with the forward edge angled opposite to the desired turn direction, usually as a prelude to drawing.
- Paddling: by applying power on one side of the canoe, the steerer can influence to a small degree which way the canoe will turn. Paddling also increases the total power moving the canoe forward compared to the other steering methods. The steerer should try and paddle as much as possible so he or she doesn't slow down the canoe by contributing to the amount of weight in the canoe.