Courtesy and respect for every team member is essential and expected from He’e Nalu Outrigger Canoe Club members. It takes an entire team working harmoniously in practice sessions and races to cross a finish line in first place. That courtesy and respect is also expected towards teams of other canoe clubs. Sportsmanship and healthy competition is welcomed—unsportsman-like behavior will not be tolerated. Crews have been disqualified in races for unbecoming behavior (i.e. swearing, unsportsman-like comments).
While each individual canoe can only seat six paddlers, every member of the team plays an important and vital role to the success of a crew, six paddlers in the canoe all working in unison. Each seat in the canoe requires certain talents and needs from a paddler, and each seat comes with its own sets of challenges and responsibilities.
Each paddler from seat number 1-5, paddles alternately on the opposite side from each other.
Seats 1 and 2 – Seat 1 (also known as a “stroker”) sits in the very front seat of the canoe. Seats 1 and 2 are primarily concerned with ensuring the rhythm and pace of the paddle strokes, which Seats 3-5 follow. They paddle on opposite sides and as such neither has a paddle to follow. A good stroker should be able to adjust the stroke depending on the length of a race or to allow for variable water and wind conditions. Seat 2 must follow in perfect time, mirroring the stroke pace so as the power distribution remains equal and synchronized down the length of the canoe. When rounding markers, Seats 1 and 2 work together to turn the front of the canoe.
Depending on the crew, either Seat 2 or 3 calls the changes, which mark the paddlers changing the side of the canoe on which they paddle. It is important that other than calling the changes, there is no talking in the canoe so that everyone can hear the changes or essential commands from the steersperson.
Seats 3 & 4 – Often referred to as Power Seats, the heavier, stronger paddlers will generally take these positions. It is their primary task to provide the brute power required to push the canoe along. Number four seat generally takes responsibility for ensuring the canoe remains as dry as possible, bailing when needs be.
Seat 5 – Seat 5 is also a power seat but also needs to have knowledge of steering to assist the steersperson when necessary. They are also referred to as the keeper of the ama. This entails that they must eyeball the ama (the outer float) to make sure it is stable. If it looks at any time to be lifting threatening a huli, they must quickly react to save it. Failing this, Seats 3 and 4 need to recognize the predicament and also try to save the canoe from going over. Seat 5 must also take responsibility for bailing if required should there be an excess of water in the canoe.
Seat 6 – The steersperson, who is the captain of the canoe, calls the shots, motivates the crew and sets the canoe up for the best coarse and catching the swells. They plan and navigate a course and have a big responsibility during sprint races, where they must set the canoe up for a good turn around the buoys. They need to have a good paddling relationship with Seat 5 in protecting the ama and indeed with all the crew. Steering a 40ft plus canoe on the open ocean in rough water is an art form. Those that learn their trade well can be considered masters of a task, which requires intimate understanding of the dynamics of the ocean and the nuances of the canoe and crew.