Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

Along with surfingloud shirtsfloral garlands and hula dancersoutrigger canoes are what Hawaii is famous for, so I felt it was important that I should give it a try in the hope of understanding better the culture of these far-flung islands. I am also deeply absorbed in a fascinating book on the ancient Pacific art of wayfinding – the method the Polynesians used to navigate from one island to another by observing the stars, clouds and migration patterns of birds, long before the invention of compasses or GPS.

After several nearly-but-not-quite missed opportunities, this morning I went out for a paddle at dawn with my friend Mariya and her housemate Dan. I had hoped that my rowing background might stand me in good stead, but found that, other than involving water, a boat and human power, paddling is nothing like rowing.

For starters, there were three of us in the boat. Odd numbers don’t work too well in crew rowing as you’d go in circles. (Note: properly speaking, rowing involves each rower having one oar apiece, set to one side or other of the boat. Rowing with two oars, one in each hand, as I do in my ocean rowboat, is actually called sculling.]

Second, the paddling movement is very much DOWN, powered by the hand on the top of the paddle, rather than the sideways sweep of a rowing blade.

And third, in rowing (on rivers at least) you rarely get the chance to surf – and if you do you are not grateful for it. This morning we paddled out to an area alongside Flat Island (imaginatively named) where some decent-sized waves were rolling towards the shore. Catch it right, and you get a free ride at high speed. Catch it wrong, and you end up with a boat full of water and a lot of bailing to be done. Hmm, maybe not so different from ocean rowing after all…

It was a LOT of fun, and I can’t wait for my next chance to give it a go. Conditions were too rough this morning for a novice, but I would LOVE to try my hand in a one-man outrigger before I leave. Watch out, Margo!

[photo above: Mariya, me and Dan, at dawn this morning, with the ‘Mokes’ islands in the background.

photo below: Surfin’!]

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