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Nine-man outrigger canoe races set to launch

OCEANSIDE — The annual 22-mile Paopao outrigger canoe races will bring camaraderie, fierce teamwork and six-pack abs to Harbor Beach Aug. 23.

Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club has hosted the nine-man Southern California Outrigger Racing Association (SCORA) race for more than 15 years.

One distinct feature of the race is the welcoming aloha spirit the club extends to competitors.

The vibe on the beach is friendly, but in the water club racing teams are in it to win.

Out on the water it’s “heads in the canoe” as racers face the challenges of waves, weather conditions, competitors and sea life distractions.

“The canoe is made for ocean crossings,” race director Jill Prichard said. “When there are wind swells and white caps, we charge through.”

Prichard said Oceanside teams put in extra effort to beat their friendly rival the Dana Outrigger Canoe Club.

“If there’s a Dana boat ahead of us in the water, it doesn’t even matter whether they’re in the same division, we try to beat it because it’s a Dana boat,” Prichard said.

Approximately 100 teams from throughout Southern California are expected to compete.

The nine-man teams have six paddlers in the outrigger at a time. Three alternates ride in a motorized chase boast and are strategically switched with teammates while the outrigger is moving.

Most of the action takes place offshore.

Paddlers launch from Dolphin Dock within the harbor and make their way to the starting line off the north jetty.

Men’s teams paddle 22 miles, women’s and coed teams paddle 20 miles. The distances take paddlers past the Oceanside Pier and back.

There is also a keikis youth division that paddles a shorter distance.

Races take about two hours from start to finish. The Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club routinely places within the top five in all divisions.

Good viewing spots for spectators are along Harbor Beach.

On shore there are food and vendor booths, a fundraising raffle, a beer garden and music.

The Oceanside Outrigger Canoe Club offers competitive and recreational paddling. There are no tryouts for the competitive teams. Paddlers who have an interest in racing are matched up with like-skilled teammates to practice and compete.

“Everybody who wants to race gets to race,” Prichard said.

The sport has competitors age 60 and beyond.

“It’s easy on the body,” Prichard said. “The passion to get in a canoe never gets old. You’re learning something new each year. The ocean below is different each stroke.”

The SCORA race series include the six-man, 15-mile ironman race in June, two-mile sprint relays in July and a championship race in September at locations along the California coast. In addition to race bragging rights and trophies, clubs score cumulative points during the racing season to determine the overall wining team.

For more information on the Paopao race, go to oceansideoutrigger.org/ and socaloutrigger.org/race-schedule/.

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