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Hoeana: the process of paddling

The style of paddling changed in the late 1980's with canoe clubs adopting the more rapid shorter stroke used by the Tahitians. It modified even more in the 1990's as competitive outrigger canoe racing became popular world wide and a canoe club from California won the Molokai Channel race using an Olympic style canoe paddling stroke. This stroke was shorter and more rapid then the Tahitians with a rate of over 60 strokes a minute. 


While sails were observed by early European explores on most canoes, paddling seemed to be the most favorite mode of propulsion.

There were many styles of paddling, each designed for the type of ocean conditions being experienced and also for the number of paddlers in a canoe.  The larger number of paddlers in a canoe the closer together the seats were placed ,causing the stroke to be shorter.

Early explores describe the rate of paddling as being between fifteen to thirty strokes per minute.

The common paddling style has been described as having a moderate reach out in front with a slight twist in the body. Upon entry into the water the power pull is emphasized after the first few inches of the pull. The follow through is long and way back behind the paddler.


The late John D Kaupiko, master paddler and one of those credited with revitalizing modern canoe paddling, knew and taught several styles of paddling using their Hawaiian names.

(The Hawaiian Canoe, T. Holmes)


Kahi malie: a long easy stroke.

Reach out in front is moderate, slight twist in the body, Follow through at the end

Of the stroke has the top hand On the paddle brought to mid chest level. Return is relaxed.

Power is emphasized after the First few inches of the pull, but power is relatively light and



Ma’oki’oki: a short choppy stroke.

Reach is just forward of the knees, pull back is quick with slight body twist, follow

Through is short just past the seat. Return is quick. Power is emphasized almost at

the entry. Power is strong and applied abruptly just after entry.


Opelu: a long power stroke.

Reach is far out in front with pronounced twist in body. There is a

Strong forward push on the top hand as pulling power is applied with the lower hand.

There is a strong Twist of the body and push back on forward foot as paddle is Pulled

back. Follow through has top had come down to stomach, return is quick but long.

Power is emphasized after a few inches of the initial pull with graduated increase (as

opposed to abrupt application of power) in power as pull comes back with maximum

pull between knee and back of seat.




Traditional Paddling Style

Video From the 1960's

Traditional Paddling Style

Hoe: the Hawaiian paddle

Hawaiian paddles varied in shape within a distinct "variation range". The shaft of the Hawaiian paddle is oval and straight. The blade is generally oval.  The Hawaiian paddle like the canoe lacked any ornamentations.


  It was very common for owners of paddles to name their paddles, especially steering paddles.  Steering paddles were generally larger than regular paddling paddles. A paddle was also a sign of authority.

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