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The Demystification of Surfing an OC-1

November 16, 2012

As paddlers, we are obsessed with talking about stroke. Terms like catch and cavitation have become common place. Nowadays we even talk a fair amount about training programs and Periodization no longer sounds like a latin word. However, what we never talk about is surfing. Or, if someone does bring it up they're immediately shut down because "it's all about feel and time on the water." As Joe Biden would say: that is a bunch of malarky. It's time to demystify surfing. As it goes with everything else in life; reading about the concepts won't make you a pro, but it will put you on the right track.

Surfing an OC-1 is all about keeping the nose of your canoe facing down. If you watch a video of a top OC-1 paddler, the nose of their canoe is facing downhill up to 95% of the time. Now look at all the rest of us; our nose is facing downhill less than half of that. So, what this says is that the winners are essentially paddling downhill while the rest of us are just paddling down a bumpy road, or, even worse, paddling uphill. The best thing about outrigger canoe paddling is that we create our course. It's not like riding a bike, where you are stuck with the track you have. It's more similar to skiing down a set of moguls that are constantly moving. The best paddlers can anticipate the movement of the moguls and therefore keep their nose down, while the average paddlers just go straight down the hill and wait for the chance occurrence of a mogul moving out of their way.

That's it. That's all there is to it. Literally, the goal is to avoid the moguls.

So, how do you do that? Simple! Hang back. We need to get rid of the temptation of catching a wave and running down the face of it. While the winner of any given race should have the fastest average speed, I can almost guarantee that they don't have the fastest top speed. When you catch a wave, the goal is to milk that wave for as long as possible and wait for your opening. You do that by sitting on top and putting in just enough energy to keep the nose facing down. Often times you'll have to cut a hard angle either left or right to keep your nose from hitting the wave in front of you.

Now comes the most important part. Every time you catch a wave you need to put all of your effort (mental and physical) into connecting into another wave. It doesn't happen by chance, it happens by scouting your opening and getting to it. The mogul analogy is particularly relevant here, because at this point you're literally going around the moguls. But, to take it one step further, you're using one mogul to propel your canoe to another. The moguls are where two waves join together. Since we're always going to have multiple swell directions, we're always going to have multiple high and low points on a moving wave face. If you're having trouble visualizing this, put your hands in front of your face, karate chop style. Now overlap your hands 90 degrees to each other so that they are creating an X in front of your face. One hand on top of the other with the pinky of your right hand perpendicular and resting on the pointer of your left. Hold that X and picture it as two swells coming together. Where they join they create a high point and in front of that point is a deep trough. As you travel further down the line of your hand away from the intersection, the power ebbs and the edge of the wave is absorbed by the ocean. Now, maintaining the perpendicular angle and keeping the pinky of your right hand touching the pointer of your left, slide your hands away from each other. The intersection point should move. That's what's happening in the ocean. The peaks of two joining waves are always moving forward, and the low points (your connection areas) are constantly moving. Now, add twenty of your friends' hands, turn those hands into ocean energy, and you have an average downwind run. Your goal is to understand where the intersections are and therefore where the highs and the lows are. So that every time you catch a wave, you're looking for the low point of the wave in front of you so that you can paddle through it and into the next bump. The best part about connecting waves is that it creates a sort of slingshot affect. Oftentimes groundswells are moving too quickly to catch. So, by connecting, you're getting yourself from a slow moving wave onto a fast moving wave.

To put it all together:

  1. Catch the wave.
  2. Put in just enough energy to stay on the wave, but avoid dropping into the trough.
  3. Scout for an opening in the wave ahead of you. It could be right in front of you or it could be twenty feet to the right.
  4. Once you find it, get to it. Some openings might require five easy strokes and a slight turn of the rudder, while some will require an all out burst of speed. Your priority is to get through the opening and onto the bump ahead.
  5. Start again at #2.

It takes some time to understand that critical energy balance between dropping in and falling off the wave. It also takes time to be able to find the openings. Putting it all together takes a lifetime. The ability to surf is arguably the single most important aspect of outrigger canoeing. You can be in peak fitness with a perfect stroke, but you'll get obliterated in the surf if you don't understand the concept. Now, go take advantage of all this wind (if you're in Hawai'i) and go paddle downwind!

Pueo Update

October 12, 2012

This probably isn’t the post that you were all hoping for. It’s simply an overdue update that the 2nd generation Pueo is, as you already know, behind schedule. While we’ve been hesitant to provide any concrete time frames, it is definitely taking longer than we expected. We’re making every effort to ensure that this canoe is a worthy successor to the first generation Pueo. As soon as we have a firm production date, we will email every customer who has ever ordered a Pueo and post it here and on Facebook. As long as you have an internet connection, you will know when we open the list.

However, we are still at full production on the original Pueo. Since we closed our waitlist last December, most of the canoes we are making are non-custom. If you’re interested in one, check out www.kamanucomposites.com/available for constant updates on what we’ve got available. If you see something that you like, call us at 808.228.8609 or email info@kamanucomposites.com so that we can reserve it for you.

Thank you for your continued support and patience.


August 21, 2012

Since we began in 2007, there is one region of the world that we haven’t been able to ship canoes to, Europe. Normally, when anyone east of the Atlantic inquires about a canoe, we tell them to look at what’s locally produced, as shipping a Pueo will be prohibitively expensive. To date, there are only three Pueo up there; one in Venice, one in France, and one in Switzerland. However, that is about to change.

We are contacted by companies interested in manufacturing the Pueo all the time. Our stock answer is “no.” While we are committed to local manufacturing, we are even more committed to quality manufacturing. Before we’ll even consider a partnership, a company must have a proven reputation for quality and a passion for outrigger canoeing. So far the only company that fit the bill was Kamanu Composites Australia. Run by Travis Grant with canoes built by Peter Corbishley, Kamanu Composites Australia has gained a reputation for the highest quality construction. So far that relationship has been hard to match. But, we have finally found the European equivalent.

Woo is an outrigger canoe manufacturing company founded four years ago by a group of friends in southern France. They are committed to local manufacturing and products created by local paddlers. Their stated reason for manufacturing is “why import canoes when you can make them yourself and create a dynamic around your passion.” We are proud to announce that they are ready to start taking orders on the Pueo for European customers.

The prospects for this new partnership are extremely exciting. Finally, we’ll have a legitimate business excuse to travel to the South of France.

For more information on Woo, their products, or ordering a Pueo in Europe, please contact Rico Leroy at ricoleroy@me.com

Liberty Challenge

June 29, 2012

Kamanu Composites was one of the proud sponsors of this year's Liberty Challenge in New York City. To commemorate the sponsorship, Luke Evslin flew to NYC to participate for his first time. This is his story...

In a city where nobody stands out, I was being stared at. Once I got over my self-consciousness at being the focus of a dozen sets of eyes on the subway, I began to stare right back. I did so in defiance of the final advice of my city host: “don’t dawdle and don’t stare.” Growing up in Hawai’i we’re continually told that we live in a melting pot of cultures. Standing on the subway in New York, I felt as if I’d lived my entire life in a bubble. It was like one of those pictures in Life Magazine showing the various faces of Earth. Everyone was represented and nobody seemed to be speaking English. Looking through the crowd it could have been any city in the world. Taken as a whole, it could only be New York City. Finally we got to my stop (which I’d rehearsed over and over in my head, “Fulton... Fulton... Fulton”) and I, in my obnoxiously bright surf shorts and t-shirt, picked up my Kialoa paddles and stepped off.

I wove my way up through the steaming mass of people in the bowels of NYC and finally emerged into the humid heat of the street. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the harsh light, it was as if I’d stepped into another world. Being a block away from Wall Street I was even more out of place than I was in the diversity of the subway. I was standing amid a moving sea of white men in suits. WIth no ocean in sight to rely on for a sense of direction and street numbers being meaningless for me, I took out my Iphone and just made sure that the blinking dot on the screen was heading towards the water. After a short walk that felt like traversing a continent, I finally got to my destination. The Best Western.

I stepped through the door into the air conditioned lobby and, for the first time in hours, finally felt comfortable. To the left was a French team, behind me the Brazilians, in front of me the Hawaiians, and scattered about were various representatives of the different east coast and Canadian canoe clubs. The group was nearly as diverse as the subway, but with one important difference. Everyone was wearing surf shorts, everyone had a paddle nearby, and everyone wore a t-shirt representing some past race. After two flights totaling 11 hours (yay for direct flights on Hawaiian), a taxi ride for an hour, a train ride for 40 minutes, a subway ride for 30 minutes, and a 20 minute walk, I was finally at the Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge.

This is one of the few races that isn’t really about the competition of the race. It’s about the experience of being in New York City and being a part of the outrigger canoe culture in a place that you would least expect it. We tend to get so wrapped up in our paddling lives in Hawai’i that we forget what else is out there. Travel to a race like the Liberty Challenge and it’s a quick reminder of why we do this. It’s about being part of a community much greater than any of us. And it’s about perpetuating an ancient, unbroken, and living culture. While it can be easy to take that for granted when you’re racing across the Kaiwi Channel or between the islands of Huahine and Raiatea, it’s impossible to forget when you’re racing in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

The race itself takes place in the busiest waterway in the world. Imagine all of the canoes in the Moloka’i Hoe, but turn them all into massive ferries, barges, drunk yachters, and reckless speed boats. Then spin them around so that they are all traveling in seemingly random directions. With the final touch being that they have zero regard for the 45’ canoes in their way. Add in 4 mph currents that are hard to predict and the most aggressive OC-6 paddlers in the world (they’re New Yorkers, they were born aggressive) and you have an idea of what the Liberty Challenge is about.

My crew was yelled at, spun out, stabbed in the back (literally), and nearly run over. For the first time in my life, I swore at the steersmen next to me. We took advantage of the raging current by going 10 mph down the middle of the Hudson and then we hovered 4” from the seawall of the East River at 5 mph to avoid the torrent going against us. The mixed crew I had the honor of steering won by a few yards. The steersmen that I had cussed out moments before proudly congratulated us on a great race. It was as if we had just had the fight of our lives with mortal enemies and then crossed the line as best friends. That is the beauty of outrigger canoe paddling.

Photo Courtesy of Ken Missbrenner and New York Outrigger Canoe Club

  • For results and pictures check them out on facebook and at the Liberty Challenge website.

He Wa'a he Moku, he Moku he Wa'a

May 30, 2012

Words cannot describe what just happened. We came into the race as friends and co-workers, and we walked away as brothers. Kamanu came alive in the channel and she gave us the honor of a victory. We didn't expect it and we don't take it for granted. She is why we do this. He wa'a he moku, he moku he wa'a. The canoe is an island, the island is a canoe. Kamanu is us, and we are Kamanu. She has given us life as much as we have given her life. She showed us what is possible. For those of us who helped build her or race her, the 2012 Pa'a 'Eono Hoe will be with us forever.