Select Page

Catch some waves on an outrigger surfing canoe ride at Waikiki Beach

Catch some waves on an outrigger surfing canoe ride at Waikiki Beach

If you don’t feel like taking a surf lesson but still want to try an authentic Hawaiian water sport, opt to do an outrigger surfing canoe ride. These boats offer the original Hawaiian rollercoaster experience and Waikiki Beach is the prime spot for this activity. 

Outrigger canoes or waʻa have a long history, dating back about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The boats, which feature one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, were used as a main mode of transportation and fishing for inhabitants in the Pacific Islands. The support floats are fastened to one or both sides of the primary hull, thus providing needed stability while traversing through strong waves and rough conditions. 

Traditional waʻa are made out of Koa wood and carved with adzes, which are special tools to cut, trim, shape and smooth wood. A cheaper and modernized version can also be made out of fiberglass or Kevlar.

Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Services

Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Services

The outrigger canoe was popularized as a racing vessel among Hawaiian chiefs in the 18th century. A beloved sport, it was subsequently banned for a period of time by Queen Ka’ahumnau, who wanted to move her people away from the islands’ traditional Hawaiian customs towards European ways of life. 

In the 1870s, the sport of outrigger canoe racing reemerged when Herb Kawainui Kane, the late artists, historian and Polynesian Voyaging Society founder, constructed a replica of the outrigger canoe that completed six major voyages over the course of two decades. Since then, the sport has become a symbol of “aloha,” and the official state sport of Hawaii. 

Waikiki Beach Services, a well-recognized company on the island of Oahu, offers outrigger canoe surfing rides, along with surf and stand-up paddleboard lessons, catamaran rides and rentals. The outrigger canoe surfing experience is for anyone ages five and up. No special skills are required. And what’s more, this type of boat is one of the safest ocean vessels and one of the only ocean vessels not required by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry life jackets. 

Your canoe will have a certified captain or captains, who assists guests with paddling and navigating through the surf, so you’ll be in capable hands. First you’ll get a quick lesson in how to paddle, which is pretty basic and easy to pick up, even if you’re a complete novice when it comes to paddling sports. However, if you were thinking about upping the ante and giving outrigger canoe racing a go, you would need serious technical skills, strength (particularly core and leg) and stamina. It’s a sport that uses every muscle in your body during each stroke.

Once assigned a seat in the canoe, you’ll receive instruction on how to enter and exit the boat -yes, there is a right way! The next step is to take the boat into the water, which demands everyone’s participation. From there, your group paddles out to the surf break and maneuvers into the line-up with all the other surfers to be ready to catch some waves. 

The key is to listen to your captain carefully as they shout out instructions to get in the best position to ride the waves back to shore. The commands are basic: paddle, paddle hard, switch (change your paddling side) and stop. Be prepared to paddle hard when requested, as timing and team effort is everything.

You’ll quickly realize that the canoe itself doesn’t surf on its own. Your captain will tell you that matching boat speed with the speed of the wave is key, and that it’s essential not to lose momentum. The more these speeds match, the more the wave will propel your boat, and you want to milk the wave as long as possible. The feeling is exhilarating! I guarantee you’ll want to do it again and again just to get that same rush from this one-of-a-kind adventure. The experience just might motivate you to try surfing with a board. Or if you’re like me, you’ll be perfectly content to stick with the canoe!

Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Services

Courtesy of Waikiki Beach Services

Feature photo  courtesy of Waikiki Beach Services

Discover more from Luxe Beat Magazine

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

About The Author

Debbie Stone

Deborah Stone is a travel and lifestyle writer, who explores the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers. She works in collaboration with tourism boards, CVBs, public relations agencies, properties and lodging associations, as well as with tour companies and cruise lines in pursuit of her discoveries. She’s an avid adventurer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for travel.

Leave a reply