The Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club is one of the winningest in the state. Its members are also some of the oldest.
The sport, and the club itself, are steeped in Polynesian traditions, such as the blessing and naming of each canoe. But keeping that tradition alive is contingent on bringing in younger paddlers who can carry the mantle. To do that, the club is holding a Newcomers Clinic Sunday for those eager to learn the craft and the history behind it.
Oceanside’s canoe clubs started back in the 1990s. The Paopao Club honored a prominent Samoan family in Oceanside. Ten years ago, it combined with another local club called Makana Ke Kai Club, which now has dozens of members of all ages, though most are in their 50s and 60s.
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The club’s 18-and-over and 50-and-over divisions have been around for decades; only recently have they developed the Junior programs for youths.
As with all new programs, they have had trouble filling the ranks. The Youth Program includes Keikis (pronounced Kay-Keys) for kids 8-12 and ‘Opiosfor teens 13-19. “We’ve done the Keiki races, which is for the little kids. But now they’ve been paddling long enough to where they can go into the junior programs, which is typically 19 and under. But our kids are so young that we have kids that are literally 16 and under going against 19 year olds,” said Youth Coach Monica Moody.
To compete against older kids, the teens practice drills. The club has slowly started to attract younger athletes, some of whom are looking for a way to cross-train.
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“It’s like in a family and stuff, you definitely get to work together,” said 13-year-old Sam Kelly. Sam is one of the stronger junior paddlers who gets to paddle and race with the older divisions. Outrigger canoeing is unique in that it builds skills that can apply in other areas of life.
“You definitely have to know how to take a little bit of criticism,” said 15-year-old Jett Boldenthorp. “Yeah, because it’s not mean spirited in any way. It’s just they are trying to get it to work.”
Recruitment Director Laurie Guidero says she encourages people at all levels to give it a try. “I don’t know where they live, or how many kids they have, where they work, nothing,” she said. “But I know who has a really big heart.”
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Guidero and Moody emphasize how working as a team takes humility, communication and respect. That respect and reverence for each other is embodied in the Polynesian traditions of naming the canoe.
“A lot of our canoes, their names honor people, our ancestors, people maybe who have passed away,” Moody said. “Each boat is individual and has it’s own name and its own entity. And so what I teach the kids is, you know, we treat these canoes with respect, just like we respect each other, we respect our equipment, we respect the canoes, we respect the ocean, you know, so we really try to break down every aspect of what we do into harmony in our environment.”
When paddlers see a seal or Pelican, some may try to get close. Moody sees that as a teachable moment, advising the paddlers to be quiet and observe. After being out on the water, they say, “Man, this beats being stuck in traffic.”
Sunday’s clinic starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Oceanside Harbor. The club will have contests on Aug. 13 in Dana Point and Aug. 27 in Oceanside. If you are interested in participating as a Newcomer, contact Laurie Guidero at [email protected]