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Steve Carter - A passion for paddling

My life revolves around the ocean - surfing, sailing, freediving and paddling outrigger canoes.

The ancient Polynesian method of making canoes for survival, travel & warfare has slowly morphed into a highly competitive sport.

Canoe racing originated in Hawaii between rival villages for the rights to land or the chief’s daughter as this was better than going to war against the other villages.

As with surfing, the sport of Hawaiian Royalty, the Hawaiians also paddled for recreation, arguably far more advanced in culture than other western civilisations.

However, in the early 1800’s canoe racing & surfing was banned in Hawaii by the missionaries and paddles were put aside & swapped for bibles.

It was not until over 50 years later that a canoe race was held in 1859 to honour the birth of a Hawaiian prince that racing started to make an annual comeback in Hawaii.

Today outrigger canoe racing is still very small in the UK with only 9 clubs currently. However, overseas it has huge participation in New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, USA, Canada and of course Tahiti where arguably the best paddlers in the world reside.

The one-person canoe (OC1) is 22ft long, very slim & would not stay upright without the side float (ama) for support. You can easily capsize these canoes though so balance still plays a significant part of the practice.

Canoes can accommodate up to 6 paddlers and we generally race the 1-man canoes on flat water & open ocean & use them for training for the 6-man canoes. There are also 2 & 3 person canoes for racing & the 4-person canoe is one used mainly for surfing large waves, which is superb fun.

That said, it is in a 6-man canoe when, once the crew timing is perfect, you really get a huge surge of adrenalin & feel the power of the entire crew moving the canoe through the ocean.

With the wind behind & following an open ocean swell with a good crew in an OC6 it is a sleigh ride of grins.

Training is tough & like all sports, nutrition & recovery are key, I am north of 50, love beer & race against people half my age so technique & ocean knowledge forms a major part of staying competitive.

It’s a superb sport to travel with & I have raced in the UK, France, Italy, Fiji and Singapore. We were due to race in Hawaii in 2020 but Covid-19 has prevented that.

The world championships are in Samoa in 2021 so we are training hard for age category selection for that & the 2022 world sprint championships are in the UK at Dorney Lake just outside London so I am hopeful to make the crew to compete against the best in the world.

Whilst the races are the training focus , it’s the art of paddling that keeps me so engaged , it’s an ancient form of transport , so it almost feels natural and programmed into our DNA and yet true paddle stroke efficiency takes years to master.

When you are alone out on the ocean & paddling with rhythm you are so often in that flow state, for me it really is active meditation.

The lifestyle 365 ethos sits at the heart of most ocean athletes, it’s not a weekend only activity as every day on or in the ocean is a good day so you try hard to make every day an ocean day.

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