A Day at the Races

Most people know what an outrigger is — it’s that canoe-like boat thingy that the Polynesians used to paddle from island to island in the South Pacific; it’s the floaty you rode the waves in as a tourist in Hawai‘i. While you’d be right in both cases, outrigger canoe paddling is also a serious sport, both in California and Hawai‘i. The spirit behind the sport of outrigger paddling is Hawaiian Albert “Toots”Minvielle. In 1951, he organized the first Molokai Channel race; in 1959, he brought the sport to California, with a race from Avalon, Catalina, to Newport Beach.

This Saturday, July 22, you can watch from Leadbetter Beach as hundreds of athletes — who come from all over California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and Canada — paddle their 400-pound, 45-foot long, 20-inch wide canoes in the 23rd annual Outrigger State Sprint Championships. Hosted by the Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club, the racers (six to a canoe) run a 500-meter course, making turns around flag markers, all highly visible from the shore. The fun begins with a traditional Polynesian opening ceremony and the blessing of the canoes and athletes. There will also be booths, hula dancing, music, food, and spirits.

— Michelle Drown

4·1·1 Sat,, July 22, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Leadbetter. Call 565-5522 or visit

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