8.0 DIVISIONS-CLUBS-CREW SELECTION
8.1 What age divisions participate in racing?
8.2 Do the juniors paddle at the same time of year as the adults?
8.3 Male and female participation?
8.4 Mentally and intellectually challenged participation?
8.5 What is the methodology behind crew selection?
8.6 So what makes for a consistent canoe crew?
8.7 How physically demanding is outrigger canoe paddling?
8.8 Is it all hard work and no play?
8.9 What do clubs expect from their members?
8.10 Do clubs insist on some sort of physical test?
8.11 What is the biggest responsibility in being a club member?
8.12 What's it going to cost me to get involved?
8.13 Do you have to be a member of a club in order to race?
8.14 Are there ever mixed male and female crews?
8.15 Are there novice divisions?
All ages are generally catered for at club level paddling, including junior age divisions. The Na Opio Association of Hawaii, is run by high school students, and ages start at under 12, through on up to under 14, under 16 and under 18.
Open divisions, extend generally up to the age of 35, whereby the division changes to Masters up to 45 whereupon it becomes the Senior Masters division. Small variances in this do occur. For example in Australia Master Women begin above 30, whilst Master Men above 35.
This varies between countries and states. In Hawaii they have a definite junior season run between January and March whilst many other countries will try and amalgamate the juniors in with the adult races. Most active outrigger paddling countries now stage separate Junior National Championships.
For the most part it would seem that, at least in Hawaii, that having the junior divisions paddle out of season from the adults, means more canoes are available at training times which do not clash with adults also allowing seasoned paddlers to put more time into junior paddling development.
In some island nations of the Pacific, women paddling canoes was a social taboo and it is only in recent times that this attitude has changed.
Though for many years a male dominated sport, one of the most intriguing aspects has become the huge participation numbers of women, over the past ten or fifteen years. Since the early 1980's huge numbers of women participants have joined the sport, adding to the colour, social camaraderie and balanced atmosphere of the sport.
Women seem to find great satisfaction in participating in a team sport that is ocean orientated and they now take on all of the same races as the men, no matter how gruelling. Such is the attraction to the sport by women, that even without the benefit of statistics, women would very nearly equal participation numbers to that of men, and their numbers are growing rapidly.
Yes, through the dedication and foresight of certain individuals and organisations, mentally and intellectually challenged individuals are being introduced to the sport. In some case canoes have been modified, in particular the seats and in some cases paddles which have had special grips added to assist. Outrigger canoes, provided they are rigged correctly, are very stable craft and if paddled on relatively flat water, generally present no risk to the paddlers.
Those crews fortunate to have coaches, will tend to have to some degree a rule of thumb that they apply. This generally includes a range of prerequisites. Billy Whitford, one of the sports most successful coaches, based in Hawaii and coach of Californian club Offshore, bases his criteria on: Attitude, talent, attendance at practice, finances, solo outrigger performances and a bottom line...
Each one of these is not necessarily as straight forward as it may seem incorporating many facets that relate to personality, fitness, mental and physical strength, technical ability, experience and even the ability to get along with others in the crew.
Increasingly solo outrigger canoe paddling is being recognised by coaches and paddlers alike, as one of the best means of selecting a six person crew, made up of the best solo paddlers as a means of guaranteeing results. The Tahitians began this principal some time ago, selecting their top six person crews from solo canoe time trials and past results and it has brought them many international victories.
There are still however some shortcomings with this as a sole means of selection. Not all the best paddlers necessarily paddle solo canoes, at least not at present and then there are other anomalies relating to personalities, the ability to be part of a team and so on.
Crew selection is difficult for the most part and one of the hardest tasks a coach must undertake. With the absence of a coach, many crews are crewed by buddies who get along, paddle in harmony together and are committed to each other to be at training sessions and have an affinity with the water and a love of the sport. No more, no less. One of the more interesting solutions to crew selection, is to have the crew write down the crew selection, to see which crew make up the most popular choice, after all they are the ones who will ultimately be paddling together and know who they get along and paddle well with.
A mix of qualities which would seem to include; commitment by the crew as a whole to each other and to the goals that they set. In this regard they must be like minded and all agree on what it is they wish to achieve. You can't have 4 gun-ho paddlers who aim for the top and 2 purely social paddlers - the mix doesn't work. Motivation must be a strong factor at all levels; in training, competition and in order to keep the high energy and enthusiasm levels switched on in order to attain the commitment to the goals that have been set. Belief and a firm adherence to the expectations set by all.
Like many other forms of paddle sport, it can be as hard as you make it. Given that it is fundamentally an ocean sport, nature dictates just how hard. The elements, particularly wind and wave action dictate conditions, but the bottom line remains, no matter the weather or sea state, done well, outrigger canoe paddling is both a physically and mentally demanding sport. This however remains one of its great attractions and close camaraderie is formed with those who you paddle with as a result of this. No pain, no gain may be corny, but never a truer saying in this context for outrigger canoeing at its roots, is an endurance sport.
It's fair to say there isn't much in the way of social paddling and social sides to clubs vary greatly. Some clubs have a sense of fun and a casual feel whilst others are definitely all about hard training sessions and winning. But that's most sport for you and the best advice, is to find a club which suits your style. Outrigger canoeing can be extremely time consuming. Paddling three, four times a week, running and gym work on spare days. You can make it as big a part of your life as money, your time and your responsibilities to others allows!
The most that any club should expect is that you are an active member. That is to say that you make yourself available to help in all aspects of club activities and not just in the paddling of canoes, but also fund raising, running club regattas, canoe maintenance and so on.
Some clubs will insist that at the very least that you are a competent swimmer and some have therefore devised swimming tests for would-be members. This can include having to tread water for a period of time and swimming a stated distance.
For insurance reasons it may also be a prerequisite that you are tested to see that you are up to it. You would be amazed at the number of would-be paddlers that proudly boast they can barely swim. Canoes do flip and even break from time to time, so being at least a reasonably fit and able swimmer, should not be beyond you.
Some clubs will have an initiation period, whereby you are gradually introduced to the canoes and how to handle and take care of them and what's expected of you, which ultimately leads to paddling and hopefully some guidance by a club coach.
To your crew. Turn out to training is essential. The canoe relies on six paddlers and if you fail to turn up to training everyone suffers. If you can't make it, tell someone! If you can't commit to the training schedule then perhaps you should take up solo outrigger canoeing. Better to be honest to yourself and to others than to constantly disappoint.
A club membership fee, which varies enormously around the world, so check out prices. Some will have an annual fee and an initial fee also, after which you only pay the annual fee. You'll need a paddle which will cost upwards of USD$95, a hydration system is a good investment so as you can stay hydrated when paddling and then a range of minor purchases you may want to make, such as gloves, paddling shorts, sunglasses etc.
However one of the biggest on-going expenses can be the travel costs to events; accommodation, flights, car expenses etc. Usually clubs will fund raise for these or everyone shares the costs, share rooms etc, so as it doesn't work out so bad in the long run.
Generally speaking, yes. By taking out membership with a club, you generally find that you will be covered by insurance as part of your fee which includes this automatically registering you with the relevant countries governing association which sanctions and approves the races which you would attend.
Some clubs may not combine club fees with all other necessary fees, in which case you will need to register separately with the governing association and perhaps take out separate insurance if you wish. In the case of participating in non-sanctioned or approved races as such by the governing body, it may not be necessary to be registered with any governing body or club, however from an insurance point of view, you will no doubt be participating at your own risk.
Insurance is a complex thing beyond the scope of this author, suffice to say, it is relevant to most club activities and events and tends to have relevance to club memberships.
Yes and in particular the junior divisions are often given this leeway so as they can make up crew numbers. They must comprise of 3 male and 3 female crew. Mixed adult crews are also catered for in some countries and states.
Yes once again in some countries and states. Hawaii and California have such a division whilst Australia does not for example. A novice will usually be classified as someone who has never paddled in any other division and may paddle novice for a period usually of one year (one season) only. Beyond this there are also sophomore, freshman, senior, master and senior master which vary according age and experience.