How paddling outrigger can improve your sup skills

Spend just a little time paddling an outrigger canoe and you will quickly understand why it is the perfect complement to paddling standup.  It will make you a better sup paadler, if you tune yourself into that. Paddle OC2 and you’ll learn even more, about yourself and how to be a better teammate.

And no, this is not just one big rationalization for adding another watercraft to the stable. Really. It’s not.

Here are some bullet points on just how my sup paddling has benefited from OC:

  • Improved Stroke: Since I started paddling OC about two years ago my sup stroke is more efficient.  When you take away the balance component that is inherent in standup, you can focus more on refining your catch, your power phase and your recovery phase of the paddle stroke. Those improvements will be noticeable when you return to the standup board.
  • Bracing, bracing, bracing: Bracing, or using the paddle to counter-balance gravity and keep the outrigger from flipping or huli’ing is a key skill in OC paddling. But it’s an often forgotten one when it comes to standup. In the OC,  bracing has to become second nature so you can paddle evenly and confidently on both sides of the canoe – and to move away from leaning so heavily on the left or ama (outrigger) side of the canoe for stability. But bracing is an extremely useful skill to have on the stand up board as well, especially in ocean paddling – especially downwinding – or surfing or when dealing with pesky boat wake.  When it becomes second nature in the outrigger, you’ll find it becomes second nature on the standup board, leading to new confidence in those scenarios and in general.
  • Bump/Water Reading: I am sure someone like Johnny Puakea or Danny Ching can explain this better than I can but I find that being closer to the water, and perhaps benefitting from a longer craft that is more connected to it, has helped me figure out how to get on the smaller bumps and steer into the bigger ones when downwinding. Being closer to the water, sitting in it more or less, helps me feel how the water “runs” and how to steer into that current to glide. This is especially true if you can have this experience with someone more advanced than you are.  You can learn from them as they steer you onto the next bump.  I’ve had several “a-ha!” moments in the OC, both the OC1 and OC2 where I felt like I finally understood when to paddle faster to get on the bump and how to steer properly into the next one.  Pretty sure it would have taken longer to figure that out had I not had the chance to work through it in the OC.

How paddling outrigger can improve your sup skills

  • Teamwork: Clearly this one applies to the the two-man outrigger, and possibly the six-man as well, although I have not had the opportunity to paddle OC-6. Yet. But, if you don’t check the ego at the starting line, your time in an OC2 is not going to be all that.  When you work as one unit, as a team, and can paddle in sync, with an open line of communication, suddenly the idea of a tandem craft being a “divorce boat” is obliterated and you can just fly.  How does that make you a better sup paddler? Well, checking the ego, limiting the self talk and tuning into the pure joy of flying on the water can extend back to your sup paddling as well, and it can help you with that mental aspect of paddling, not matter what kind of craft you’re on.

How paddling outrigger can improve your sup skills

Anytime we can experiment with other paddling disciplines, our over all paddling is bound to improve.  There’s always something to be learned and to be taken away from a new experience.  Take a seat in an OC and you’ll see what I mean.  One word of warning, though.  It’s addicting!

Happy paddling, y’all!


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