Some of the top outrigger canoe teams from Hawaii and Australia are coming to Gibsons next weekend for the 12th International Howe Sound Outrigger Race.
With the world outrigger sprints being held Aug. 11 to 15 in Calgary with 25 countries and more than 1,200 paddlers attending, organizers of the Howe Sound outriggers decided to move their event from the familiar July date to August to ensure the best field possible.
“It just made sense for us to move our race,” said race director Donna Harrison. “Some of the top teams and most well-known teams in the paddling community heard about Gibsons and our race and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to come visit.”
Some of the paddlers who will be in Gibsons are legends in outrigger canoe racing.
Nappy Napoleon has helped develop outrigger paddling in many countries.
He had his documentary, I Just Love to Paddle, shown at the Vancouver Festival of Ocean films this summer. He has also crossed the Molokai Channel more than 50 times, most recently with his grandsons. He will be competing with two of his over-60 crew in the long course, and using a Gibsons Paddle Club canoe.
Also competing in the men’s division is Team Primo from Hawaii. The team won both the Molokai and Olamau, the first 145 km (three day, three island) crossing events in 2011.
“Team Primo is one of the top teams in the world,” Harrison said. “To have them here racing is something pretty special. And to have someone like Nappy racing here is a big honour for our race.”
There will also be three open women’s crews among the competitors including the winners of Molokai Wahine race last year, the Waikiki Beach Girls, members of the famous Waikiki Beach Boys’ Club, a women’s team from Sydney, Australia, Koa Kai Outrigger Canoe Club, and from California and Newport Beach, the Offshore Canoe Club.
The full iron course is a 26 km race in the Strait of Georgia around Keats Island to Howe Sound. The event is considered an international race and for any Canadian teams will be considered the Canadian championship race.
Festivities kick off Friday night, Aug. 17, with team registration from 2 to 7 p.m. with the official race blessing at 7:15 p.m. outside the Kinsman Hut in Dougall Park. This blessing is where all the racers will receive their own devil’s club necklace, traditionally used for protection while out on the water.
On Saturday, racing begins at 8 a.m. with the short course race (14 km) starting at the government wharf in Gibsons.
The women’s iron race starts at Armours Beach at 10 a.m. with the men’s and mixed iron races starting at 1:30 p.m. also from Armours Beach.
Harrison said good public viewing areas for the iron races are anywhere along Bonniebrook Beach, and in the Gospel Rock area. You can also watch the teams race to the finish at the government wharf.
The racers’ banquet wraps up the day from 5 to 7 p.m. at Dougall Park.
On Sunday morning there is a mass start solo/tandem/ski race at 8:30 a.m. leaving the government wharf with post event awards at 11 a.m. The day is shorter to allow teams to catch the 1:05 p.m. ferry, as many have flights booked back to Hawaii and other international locales that evening.
For more details, see www.clippercanoes.com/outrigger/index.htm.