Category Archives: Outrigger

BOO and the 2014 Gorge Distance Race

Screenshot (69)On July 19, 2014 the Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club (BOO) competed in the Gorge Distance Race hosted by Waterwalker at Stevenson Washington. The race was approximately 12 miles and is one of the most challenging races of the year. Check out the map for details.

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest and is well known for its extreme wind and fast waters.  In Bend, OR practice is held from March into the Fall in the relatively calm waters of the Deschutes River. Even though many members have experience in the open ocean and in the conditions of the Columbia River, the conditions in Stevenson, WA on July 19 were very challenging.

boo-huiCut to a pre-race huli – and the men’s open OC-6 team got a hasty and wet warmup. One of the more experienced of the BOO men’s team, John Von Gaertner was very pleased with how the team calmly got the canoe upright and back ready to paddle.

One thing he did mention was that the iako was set at 69 inches. In the wind and wave conditions it might have been better to set it out a bit further.  As it was, there was little extension of the iako past the hull so when they tried to stand on the end to counter-balance and right the canoe there was very little footing.  Some of the teams had added weight to the ama – which is allowed. That and other strategy decisions are part of what makes racing in challenging conditions so compelling.

SUP athlete and guest paddler, Glenn Haupt (Bend) explained, “We managed to right the canoe and get back in fairly easily. It was good experience for me to huli – and then get my mind back into thinking about paddling, timing, keeping up my power and focusing on my stroke.  It was my first time catching waves from anything larger than a SUP raceboard.

We would catch swells and bump our speed in the process – but from Seat 5 I felt in the middle of 2-3 troughs and swells, not feeling us catch the glide like I am used to. It was exhilarating and fun – and exhausting!”

Coming from Oregon you cross the Bridge of the Gods to get to the little town of Stevenson, site of the Gorge Outrigger race.  Here you will find one of the most beautiful views in the Pacific Northwest and definitely one of nature’s most challenging race courses.

With the wind and waves delivered last Saturday, the start was a very tricky time for a steersman and the crew.  Glenn had a bit to say about the experience, “As we made our final turn back into the wind, we encountered the largest swells yet….head on.  It was pretty gnarly trying to turn the canoe. I thought it would be easier since we were with the current at that turn – not so.  Several times I flew out of my seat only to be caught by the spray skirt which held me in tight.  The final leg was definitely the hardest. I gained a ton of respect for the skills and fitness that outrigger racing demands.”

BOO coach and stroke for the Gorge Race, Jason Tedrow,  was very pleased with how the crew performed in very challenging conditions. The crew was comprised of a mix of experienced and novice paddlers. Reflecting on decisions he had to make as far as stroke pace, power and strategy he had this to say, “Thinking back on what I might have done to create an overall faster boat and maybe a better experience for all might have been to slow the frequency of the stroke a bit. This might have given the less experienced paddlers more time to get their return and catch completed. That could also have improved our overall timing – and as a result improved our hull speed.”

The BOO Women’s team paddled the gnarly 12 miles in 1:51:15 – which is a long time to stay focused, tough and fast in big winds and waves. They scored a 4th place finish among 12 starting canoes – huge shout out for an amazing race!

Here are some photos from the 2012 and the 2013 race – view and enjoy.

If Shoulders Could Talk – The “Catch”

After watching the Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club practice in our local Deschutes River and observing the power, speed and fun the OC-1 paddlers generate I had to step off my standup paddle board for a try.

Hooked! After just a few weeks of OC-6 team practices I love the sport – and even more, I love what it has done for my SUP technique. While going fast and training for endurance is important, keeping injury-free while getting the most power from each stroke is a top priority.  Like many of you, I get some training from clinics and pros when possible and make the most of YouTube videos by athletes and trainers we respect.

jennnnnnnI actually had to get a sore shoulder in order to learn some key aspects of the outrigger paddle technique.  In seat 2 one afternoon I sat behind a super strong paddler and a KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele, Jen Kjellesvik (Standup paddle and Payette River Games podium winner). On each reach before the catch it seemed to me that her elbow and forearm set higher than the shoulder – so I mirrored that. The imagery of power I got from Jenn in seat 1 made me feel fast and strong – but my upper arm and shoulder felt fatigued and sore. I chalked that up to using new muscles.

Later when we switched out of the canoe for some dry land training with coach, Meg Chun, we were working on the set/hesitation and catch. One by one we showed our technique – and I showed the way I had done the stroke during practice. “Whoa!,” said Meg. It seemed that what I thought I was seeing from seat 2 was not what was really happening. Jen’s FOREARM and hand were above the shoulder (set-hesitate for that nano-second before each catch) but the elbow floated below the shoulder.

Just as I knew from standup technique, to keep my elbow below the shoulder, the same was true for outrigger. Meg’s training and explanation in the dry land clinic really brought this solidly home. Thinking about setting the scapula, images of bracing with the leg and pulling on a door handle, and repeats of a hesitation before the catch gave muscle-memory to this shoulder-happy technique.

Lisa Jabukowski shows great from (Photo by Dave Chun)
Lisa Jabukowski shows great from (Photo by Dave Chun)

A second lap in the OC-6 gave a chance to practice the technique – but a surprise bonus in imagery came paddling by. Team mate, Lisa Jabukowski, came past in her OC-1. For a few minutes she was off to my right. I watched her upper body through dozens of strokes and noticed her shoulder/back position before each catch and pull. I can’t describe exactly how her rotation was different from what I had been doing but watching her allowed me to make subtle changes. Everything about my stroke was feeling better and nothing was getting sore or unduly fatigued. oc6-1

The next time I was in the water after that clinic I happened to be standup paddling. With outrigger imaging in my mind I kept my bottom arm straight and my upper elbow below my shoulder on the recovery. HESITATION, set and DIG for a solid CATCH. Then using my legs and torso rotation I moved my board forward as the paddle held steady and smooth in the water.

Again and again, 8 strokes per side, for about 4 repeats I went slow and with focused intention. Then it was time to see what a bump in cadence might do.

Sweet! There was an absolutely cool connection between the power in my legs and the rotation of my torso – which moved my shoulders to the proper plane (thank you, Lisa).  I could feel the moment of catch before my legs enhanced by body rotation solidly ooooonched my board forward and past my paddle.

Next day shoulder soreness = NONE!! Muscle memory, great imagery and some solid coaching provided in the outrigger team setting is making a world of difference in my standup technique. If you have a chance to participate in both – give it a try.

Great training video by KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele, Luke Evslin (minute 4:00 was especially an “aha” segment for me.)