Canoes Of Ancient Hawaii

Modern Hawaiian Canoes

Modern Hawaiian Canoes are used for sport and pleasure.

Ancient Hawaiian Outrigger Canoes Were Used for Travel

The master steersman of our village, his white hair pulled back tightly into a top-knot on his head, is stocky, not of great height, with dark skin aged from the sun. Across his chest are the tattoos of his ancestral line. On his right thigh are the tattoo markings of his victories. He awaits on the sandy shoreline for the new racing outrigger canoe to be brought forth. Firmly gripped in his large hands is the steering paddle that has been with him in many triumphant canoe races.

Our village waited with great anticipation and eagerness to view the new outrigger canoe that was chosen to be our village’s racing vessel. One young native had been carving day and night during the past three full moon cycles, ever since the large tree was brought down from the uplands. Finally it was completed! The young carver was to debut and introduce this new sleek racing canoe as the “newcomer” to the village. The entire village was there to greet them. Praises from his peers and expressive smiles on the faces of the young and old were rewarding affirmations for the young carver.

The young carver observed from the rocks on shore as his uncle and four other family members sat in his finely carved canoe. “It will fly like no other,” were the words whispered in the breath of the young carver. On the starting line, dozens of racing canoes from neighboring villages lined up side-by-side in the ocean bay.

With the sound of the conch shell, the newcomer sprang from its place, and it flew like no other. With the mastery of his uncle’s steering backed by the paddling strength of his family, their canoe pulled ahead. Now, the most challenging portion of the course was within seconds—the turning point. Anchored with a long rope and stone was a large round gourd that floated on the ocean surface.

This was the buoy that the canoes must successfully turn around before heading home to the finish line. Many competing crews have lost a race while making a turn around the buoy. With the signal of the middle man, the canoe crew readied itself for the turn. Within a breath, the newcomer turned on command. Sprinting ahead of the other canoes with great velocity, the newcomer glided as a graceful bird to the finish.

As the tears came to the eyes of the young carver, a pat on his right shoulder indicating total approval came from his father. From where he stood, the young carver could also see the smile on the face of his uncle. It was truly a victorious moment!

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