Outrigger races draw competitors of all ages

OCEANSIDE — Conditions were a little rough, but consistent, as nine-man teams — ranging in age from 19-year-old kiekis to 55 and older golden masters — competed in outrigger races at Oceanside Harbor on Aug. 28.
Most of the 28 clubs that competed in the races are from Southern California, including outrigger clubs from Oceanside, Mission Bay, Dana Point and Redondo Beach.
Teams raced from Oceanside down the coast to Carlsbad and back.
“There were little puffs,” Betsy Service of the Kai Elua club of San Diego said. “It was fun. Conditions were the same they’ve been all season.”
The three-hour paddling race takes strength and conditioning.
“It’s misleading that it takes upper body strength to paddle,” Tom Dean, vice president of Oceanside Outrigger club, said. “It really takes core strength. The strength for paddling comes from your legs and core.”
Teams also have the challenge to switch out paddlers during the races, who leap in and out of the outrigger from a “spec boat.”
“It’s very exciting,” Service said. “You have four to five seconds to switch. If you miss the switch, the team is down one paddler.”
Outrigger racing follows the traditions of Hawaiian canoe racing.
Boats are built to precise specifications and must weigh in at 400 pounds.
“They are tied together with 10,000 year proven knots,” said Dave Hansin, founder of Makana Ke Kai club, which merged with the Paopao club in 2007 to form Oceanside Outrigger. “The knots move with the water.”
The day’s competition awarded first-, second- and third-prize medals and bragging rights to each age group category of men’s, women’s and coed teams.
The oldest competitor of the day was Al Ching, who is one of the top 10 golden masters racers at age 79. The golden masters category starts at the young age of 55 and lets racers 55 and older compete against each other for many years. “Sometimes they call us the golden hamsters,” Dean said, with a smile. “There’s been some disrespect for our age group,” he joked.
Catalina Channel Crossing US Championship races will be held Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 in Newport Beach. For Oceanside race results, visit www.scora.org.

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