The sport of Outrigger Canoe paddling is very close to my heart as it was the first real paddle craft that I sat in and learned how to paddle. From paddling outrigger canoes I have shaped my life and over the last 13 years has transformed into owning a paddle shop, coaching athletes full time and creating Team Tahoe Waterman. Team Tahoe Waterman is not strictly an outrigger canoe paddling team, actually we only paddle the 6 person outrigger canoe once a week. The team trains on a variety of paddling craft and the OC6 is just part of the training program. But when a race happens to pop up on our beautiful Lake Tahoe we of course will jump in and go race it!
I found out about a Lake Tahoe outrigger canoe race a couple weeks before the race date and imediatley made some calls to find out who was available. The boat sits 6 people and every seat has a designated job. Seat 6 is the steers person and I did not want to sit in that seat so I was hustling to find a good steers person so that I could sit in a seat where I could just paddle hard and leave it all out on the water. The race was on a Saturday and Monday before the race we had 5 strong paddlers but were still missing that one person that I was hoping could steer us. The most important thing in paddling an OC6 is timing, everyone has to be in sync and paddle as one. There are six people paddling together and if one person is out of sync it screws up the whole crew. Its hard to find 6 people that are whiling to put there ego's aside and become one crew that will do anything for each other. We had a great practice on Monday and the five of us paddled well together right away. I was steering and was having trouble trying to paddle and steer at the same time. Steering is an art and it is amazing to watch the people that are good at it. (I am not good at it, I was never really taught how to steer. When I coached the Truckee outrigger canoe club I needed to steer while coaching, so I just jumped back there and did it). Our practice ended and we were all buzzing from a great session and were excited about Saturdays race. By Wednesday, I had found our 6th person but he was not a steers person so that meant I was steering the race.
Race day brought some wind and it being a Saturday in the middle of July in Lake Tahoe there was a lot of boat traffic. Boat chop combined with wind chop causes some crazy mixed water which is very hard to paddle in especially for a new crew that had never paddled together before. Also very challenging conditions to steer in which I was pretty nervous about. I new we had a strong fit crew that had a chance to be in the top 3 and I wanted to make sure I was not the weak link because of my lack of steering ability. We went for a quick paddle (first one as a full crew) and then lined up with our competition. Off the start we were in first right away and paddling great. We had a crew come up and match us as we settled into race pace. On the other side of the pack another crew was moving well and eventually went ahead of us. We battled for the first quarter of the race for 2nd place but finally dropped the other crew and sat in 2nd alone. Our crew paddled hard and fought to real in 1st place but after 10.5 miles we ended up holding on to 2nd at the finish. I was so proud of our team and the effort all the boys put in. We were easily the least experienced crew on the water and we were able to come together and get 2nd place in challenging conditions.