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Recreational paddling with Hawaiian Canoe Club

March 8, 2013 - Leah Sherman

I had been in a canoe once before in my life. But the experience had fortunately escaped my conscious thought — until I reached the Hawaiian Canoe Club hale on Sunday morning.

In the previous outing, two of my friends and I had flipped a canoe on a lake one summer during college. The rescue boat had towed the canoe to shore and left us to swim.

So, suddenly I wasn't feeling too sure about attempting recreational outrigger paddling, which the club does every Sunday.

I arrived early (as I tend to do) and found just one HCC member there, a very friendly man named Rick. He found me the right-sized paddle and filled me in on some of the terminology of outrigger paddling as we walked toward the club's many canoes (wa'a). Rick showed me (while still on solid ground) how to enter and exit the canoe and gave me some paddling tips.

I have no doubt that my face still had a look of unease at that point, but he reassured me that the beginners use the double-hulled canoe.

During my mini-lesson, other paddlers arrived, including former Maui News Staff Writer Kekoa Enomoto and her husband, Ed, who runs the Sunday sessions. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

When it came time to launch the canoes, it was a team effort, with everyone helping carry the vessels — which are a lot heavier than I expected — to the water. The experienced paddlers took off in the six-person canoes, while myself and the other newbies (there were a total of eight), Coach Don and a boy learning to be a steersman headed over to the double-hulled canoe, which seats up to 12.

That thing looked really sturdy. And I hopped in a seat toward the back just as Rick had shown me. Coach Don gave us a few instructions and out we headed toward the breakwater. Our timing wasn't so good. And, despite the fact that someone was calling it out, I was having trouble switching my paddle at the same time as the others. But, all of a sudden, there we were at the edge of the harbor looking at the wide-open ocean.

I was grateful that was as far as we going, though.

We turned around and headed back to shore. Once there, Coach Don tried moving us to different seats in the canoe. Turns out it is not so easy to get in the front of the canoe when you're only 5-foot-3, the canoe is even with your shoulder and the water is up to your waist. I tried to pull myself in twice before one of my boatmates helped me out by lifting my legs and flinging me into the boat. It was far from graceful. Once I was back in the boat, we did a few more paddling drills and then we were done.

And just like that, my second-ever canoe experience was over.

Kekoa told me that it takes just three paddling sessions to become addicted. I do not doubt it. I really enjoyed my time of the water.

Hawaiian Canoe Club hosts recreational paddling every Sunday. The boats launch at 7:30 a.m. from the beach fronting the group's hale at Hoaloha Park in Kahului and return around 9 a.m. Novice paddlers are always welcome, and the first outing is free. (All paddlers are required to sign a waiver form, which is available at the hale on Sunday mornings.) The club provides paddles and canoes. A potluck breakfast is held on the first Sunday of each month.

I missed out on the potluck because I had to go to work, but it looked delicious and I was definitely hungry after my time on the water.

Hawaiian Canoe Club Executive Director Kaimana Brummel had emailed me an invitation to try the group's outing. You'd be wise to take her recommendation to wear “something you don't mind getting wet in (surf shorts, spandex pants, a rash guard top, etc.) and bring a bottle of water. I also recommend a towel and dry clothes to change into.”

A quick Google search shows that at least two other canoe clubs on the island offer recreational paddling — Kihei Canoe Club and Maui Canoe Club. See their websites (links at right) for more information. For more on Hawaiian Canoe Club, see the group's website (link at right), call 893-2124 or send email to


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