Living on the cool, damp edge of the Pacific Ocean, many of us spend our winters, and sometimes our springs and summers, too, dreaming of the Hawaiian Islands. But a rapidly growing number of locals have brought the spirit of aloha to Vancouver - year round!
The Hawaiian chant 'imua' - to go forward - resounded on the beaches of Jericho last weekend, and go forward they do! The eight-year old Jericho Outrigger Canoe Club (JOCC) gathered in a circle to christen their two new long boats in preparation for the arduous 'Jericho Iron' - an annual racing event that drew almost 200 competitors from the Okanagan, Washington State, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.
The christening included a brief lesson in Hawaiian language and culture. The 42 foot, six-man boats with outriggers (ama) attached, were named for the feelings local enthusiasts have towards this sport and to honour the tradition it comes from.
One boat's name, Makana o Uhane [mah-kah-nah oh oo-ha-nay], meaning Gift of Spirit, pays tribute to the spiritual aspects outrigger paddlers experience on the water, and within the family, or ohana, of paddlers found around the Pakipika Kai - Pacific Ocean. The other boat's name, which was also chosen with the help of a Hawaiian kahuna (spiritual teacher), is 'Jericho No Kaio', meaning Jericho the Best. It is a traditional name used by the clubs of Hawaii, and taken by JOCC to recognize their proud duty to share the sport, and the welcoming culture it creates, with everyone.
The friendly culture of this sport was very much in evidence all Saturday. Before the women's race start at 9am, happy athletes and their families gathered over free breakfast food to express their pre-race jitters with much laughter. Then fifteen boats lined up off the pier, and no one noticed the rain as the cameras clicked, the horn blasted and the paddlers buried their 'blades'. The winning team, The False Creek Wahines, traversed course in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 31 seconds - just 6 seconds ahead of JOCC's top boat. The men's race started soon after, with JOCC taking 1st (in 57 minutes, 20 seconds), 2nd and 3rd place, and then the novice and mixed men/women's race began, while beach-side the barbecue was fired up. The sun shone on the culminating event, the awarding of trophies for the winners and prizes drawn randomly for lucky ticket-holding participants.