Look offshore at Del Monte Beach on a Thursday night, and you might catch a glimpse of outrigger canoes gliding along the surface of the water. They cut an elegant line, seeming to move easily over chop and waves. But the paddlers are working intensely, practicing for an upcoming competition, working on their speed, stroke and their turns, on their way to and from a buoy off Cannery Row near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But elegance and fitness aside, when you see an outrigger canoe, you are also seeing an ancient mode of transport. Such vessels, then carved from koa trees, were essential for settling the Hawaiian islands, and first arrived around 200 CE. Now, nearly 2,000 years later, they are still in use – for sport, for tradition and for community building. The Monterey-based Hi’ilani ‘O Ke Kai Outrigger and Cultural Center hits all of those notes, with paddler members who compete and also paddle just for recreation, hula classes, a luau event and other community activities. That includes a recreational community paddle, appropriate for newcomers to the sport, twice every month – inviting everyone to paddle across the water, and also back in time.
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