Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe
Outrigger canoes first arrived in Hawaii around 200 AD, some large enough to hold up to 80 people, and were filled with essential items like edible plants, water and animals to ensure a somewhat safer voyage for the brave explorers who took off in search of land. By following the migration patterns of birds seen flying overhead, explorers soon discovered the Hawaiian Islands.
The harsh terrain of the land, including jagged volcanic lava rock, steep cliffs, howling wind and waves, made it very difficult to transport anything, so outrigger canoes became a necessity for tasks like fishing and transporting goods and people. When native ...view middle of the document...
One of the most highly honored members of the ancient Hawaiian society was the canoe carver, or kalai wa’a. Black paint, made from a mixture of plants and charcoal, was then added to the outer layer of the canoe to help keep it waterproof. For the Ali’i, or royalty, hens’ eggs were used to make the paint shiny and glossy. The final act of building the canoe was the sacrifice of a dog and pig, which symbolized the tearing apart of the billows of the ocean and the rooting of the canoe into the open sea, respectively. Noho, or canoe seats, were often named after the paddler instead of the position number, and specialized wood artisans were given the task of making the paddles, all of which were customized for each owner and displayed proudly inside the paddler’s home.
Outrigger Canoe Racing
It has been said that “canoe racing has been around as long as there have been 2 canoes.” While outrigger canoes were not invented in Hawaii, the sport of canoe racing certainly was, called hei hei wa’a, and was practiced widely among Hawaiian chiefs for sport and recreation, often placing bets on the outcome. When Captain Cook arrived to the Hawaiian islands in 1779, he reported seeing at least 1,500 outrigger canoes, quite a feat due to the amount of work and manpower required to build each one. For that time, estimates of a Hawaiian population were between 175,000 to 225,000 people and between 6,000 and 12,000 outrigger canoes. As the shift from traditional Hawaiian practices to European ways of life began to take shape, canoeing, and placing bets on the outcome of canoe races, became frowned upon by missionaries and was later banned by Queen Ka’ahumanu under their influence.
Outrigger Canoe Revival
Several decades later, in 1875, the last reigning King of the Kingdom of Hawaii, King David Kalakaua, brought back the sport of outrigger canoe racing by naming his own birthday, November 16th, official annual regatta day. In 1908, the Outrigger Canoe Club was founded on Oahu, which helped popularize the nearly lost Hawaiian sports of surfing and outrigger canoe racing.
Then, in 1975, historian and Polynesian Voyaging Society member Herb Kawainui Kane designed a replica of a traditional Hawaiian double-hulled voyaging canoe, which he named Hokule‘a, or “Star of Gladness.” In 1976, Hokule‘a departed from Honolua Bay, Maui, and arrived successfully in Tahiti 34 days later, without the aid of any modern navigation instruments. After...