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Outrigger Outreach

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000


Remember the opening sequence of Hawaii 5-O when a long, sleek canoe powered by six paddlers flashes across the screen? Well, outrigger canoeing is no longer confined to the Pacific. Three dedicated watermen hope the sport will catch on here in Tampa Bay.

Friends and paddling partners John Edwards, George Stovall and Dan Harvey have bought three 45-foot-long canoes and formed an organization called Outrigger Outreach. They want everybody from Boy Scouts to senior citizens, triathletes and the disabled, to come out and give this team sport a try.

It takes six paddlers to power the typical outrigger, which weighs 300 to 400 pounds, making teamwork essential. The paddler in the bow (No. 1) sets the pace. The No. 2 and No. 4 spots paddle on the opposite side of the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 paddlers. The No. 6 paddler, usually the captain, steers from the stern.

Outrigger canoe races range from a quarter-mile sprint to a 30-mile or longer open ocean challenge. While Hawaii has long been considered the mecca for outrigger canoe racing, the sport has been gaining popularity on the mainland United States

Edwards, a world-class paddler in solo events, hopes the outriggers will help spread the spirit of aloha, or goodwill, hence the name Outrigger Outreach. To join (membership includes the Florida Competition Paddlers Association newsletter) call Edwards at (727) 823-8000. Everybody, regardless of ability, is welcome.

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