One of the events of the Mashpee Wampanoag pow wow this weekend was a canoe race. Hōkūleʻa crewmembers were invited to participate, and since most of us are outrigger canoe paddlers and in pretty good paddling shape since it’s regatta season, we jumped at the chance to get up at 5:30 am to get on the water.
The canoe race was in two-person canoes back and forth across Mashpee Lake. When a canoe reached the far side of the lake, each paddler had to get out and take a quahog clam shell from a pile on the shore to carry back to the finish line to certify that you went the whole distance. The race ended as soon as both paddlers from the canoe each gave their shells to the referee. The total distance was about 3 miles. First the women raced, then the men.
The Wampanoag paddlers were excited to have us race with them. We teamed up with each other, Cat and Ka’iulani in one canoe and me and Heidi in another. Besides us ,there were 3 other womens teams. We started out doing bumper boats until we were able to spread out and get the hang of steering. I steered it like an outrigger canoe, which meant poking every once in awhile, which I tried to avoid since I didn’t want to miss too many strokes! Not sure that was the correct technique for this canoe but it seemed to work and kept us in a relatively straight line. Cat and Ka’iu won the race in around 33 minutes, we were second. For our mens’ crews, Kaleo and Jesse came in first at around 29 minutes, Pete and Snake were second. We all felt kind of badly that we won by such sizable margins and beat their champs, some of whom haven’t lost for years, but our native hosts assured us that we were an inspiration to them. I’m guessing that they will be talking about the Hawaiian paddlers for years to come.
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