The Art of Paddling

With crews around Oahu preparing for the start of the outrigger canoe racing season, what better time to take a look at a beautiful book, ‘Paddling in Hawaii’ by JOSS

Friday - May 20, 2005
By Chad Pata
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Left: The start of a race is always hectic. Center: Surfing ‘The Wall’ off
Portlock. Right: A raised paddle, the sign of victory

The month of June may mark the end of the hard work for Hawaii’s students, but it marks the beginning of the tortuous outrigger paddling season.

While this may mean little to those outside of the 10,000 competitive paddlers on Oahu, there is now a way to get inside this sport that is so highly contested in front of so few spectators. Paddling in Hawaii is a photo essay (read: coffee table book) by local photographer Joss Descoteaux detailing the beauty and excitement of this esoteric sport. From the reaction in the canoe community, it’s a big hit.

JOSS came to Hawaii from Canada to paddle
in the Molokai race

“The book is spectacular. I’ve actually given it away as gifts to paddlers and non-paddlers and they are just blown away by it,” says Walter Guild, who has spent the majority of his life designing and building outrigger canoes. “He’s done a lot for the sport with this book and the pictures he has taken.”

Taking pictures of the action rather than participating is not how this all began for JOSS. At 17, he came to Hawaii from Quebec to compete with a team in the Molokai Ho‘e long-distance canoe race. This little taste of the Islands kept him longing to return.

“I wanted to be someplace where I could be in the water for more than a month and half,” says JOSS, who moved to Hawaii in 1993 on the urging of his friends.

Years of enjoying the water gave way to photographing it when the Pacific Paddler Magazine needed someone to shoot for its publication. Once he started recording the action instead of creating it, he found he loved it.

“When the conditions are really good, it’s good fun to go out there with the best guys on the island,” says JOSS, who admits he rarely has time to paddle anymore himself.

Left: A crew bails out to avoid hitting a surfer. Center: The Stroke, or first seat,
has nothing to paddle as the canoe catches air. Right: Waimanalo regatta


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