Outrigger races set to see record number of competitors

OCEANSIDE — A record number of teams will compete in the 18th annual PaoPao 9-Man Outrigger Races that launch from Oceanside Harbor Aug. 27.

Paddlers face the challenges of competitors, waves and weather conditions as they race to the Oceanside Pier and back.

Nine-man teams begin with six paddlers in the outrigger. Three alternates ride in a motorized chase boat and strategically switch off with teammates during the race while the outrigger is moving.

This year there will be a good representation of outrigger canoe clubs from California, and beyond. Regular participation is seen from San Diego, Newport Beach, Redondo Beach, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Oceanside’s friendly rival Dana Point.

“We have clubs from as far north as the San Francisco Bay area, and as far away as Phoenix,” Karl Higgins, Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club chase boat coordinator, said.

Among the 800 paddlers competing are keiki kids, teens, adults, seniors over age 50, and golden masters (affectionately nicknamed “golden hamsters”) age 60 and older. Skill levels vary from novice to expert in all divisions.

Men’s teams paddle 22 miles, and women’s and coed teams paddle 20 miles.

The sport allows everyone to compete, and has become popular with female athletes.

“Interestingly more women are paddling and racing than men,” Higgins said.

Race days are filled with “ohana” family and tradition.

The Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club sets up a hospitality tent, serves lunch and holds a gift basket raffle to help cover race costs.

Another tradition is to give a formal thank you to volunteer chase boat captains prior to the first race.

“They are presented with a goody bag containing sweets, lunch, water, snacks and a nice check for their anticipated expenses helping us all day,” Higgins said.

The races are a Southern California Outrigger Racing Association (SCORA) event. Eleven SCORA races are held from May to September along the Southern California coastline.

Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club was founded in 2007 as a merger of the Makana Ke Kai Outrigger Canoe Club and PaoPao Outrigger Association. The annual Oceanside race continues to carry the PaoPao name.

First boats launch at 8 a.m., women’s races start at 8:30 a.m., men’s races begin at 12:30 p.m., and an awards ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m.

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