Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jzero/public_html/troy/wpblog/wp-includes/cache.php on line 36

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jzero/public_html/troy/wpblog/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jzero/public_html/troy/wpblog/wp-includes/theme.php on line 540
The Hizzle of T-Fizzle » Blog Archive » How to Huli in One Easy Step

How to Huli in One Easy Step   

After spending a few weeks practicing with the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association, I started hearing a lot of talk about thinks like “OC1″ and “Testing.”  Through a little bit of inquiry and careful observation, I figured some things out.  Like most sports teams, you have to try out.  In this case, you have to try out in order to be selected to be on one of the teams going to the US National Championships to be held in Long Beach, CA.  It’s probably obvious that figuring out who the 20 best paddlers are in any category (men, women, mixed, senior, etc) is not going to be an easy task if you have to put bunches of people in a dragon boat.  How can you figure out which paddlers are the ones actually propelling the boat the fastest?  Bob Gannon seemed to think that the tryout at one point involved a modified Concept2 rowing machine outfitted to simulate the dragon boat stroke.  I believe this is true, but things have changed.

Team brass have been doing this for quite some time.  A lot of the dragon boat paddlers participate in other paddle sports like canoeing.  Someone figured out that a one-man outrigger canoe with a pedal-operated rudder can basically be paddled using the same stroke we use in the dragon boat.  This is the mysterious “OC1″ that I kept hearing about.  The “test” that people kept talking about was a 500m (or in some cases 1000m) time trial.  Stands to reason that if you can find the 20 people who can paddle an OC1 the fastest and get them all synced up in a dragon boat, that’s going to be your fastest team, and that’s pretty much the way it works in reality.

The OC1 concept has its strengths and weaknesses.  The key strength is that it allows you to evaluate a paddler’s ability on an individual level and the paddler does not have to make any major stroke modifications.  The key weakness is…well…it’s not a dragon boat.  The seating position is not quite the same, the “feel” is different, and perhaps most significantly you have to steer it yourself.  It’s got a bit of a learning curve.  I was advised to try and practice in the OC1 at least 3 times before attempting a test.

Of course during the last two weeks of May and all of June my weekends (the tests were being held mostly on Saturday mornings) were heavily occupied by rehearsals for Footloose which made it hard for me to attend the tests.  I missed the first 2 or 3, but once the show started I was able to make it to tests - I would have to be careful about not staying out too late after the Friday night show, but it was feasible to get up and get out there.

But first…I had to learn how to use one of these darn OC1s!  I sent a plaintive message out the PDBA mailing list and was met rather quickly with a reply from another team member who was taking another team member out and would be happy to let me tag along.  The following morning after practice, I found myself carrying the light but cumbersome OC1s down to the floating dock where I got a brief overview of the terminology (the outrigger is called “amma” and the arm to which is attached is the “iako”) and some instruction on how to mount/dismount (you’re most likely to flip the thing trying to do one of these two operations), adjust the seat, and generally paddle.  Typically the outrigger is to your left (but we have a right-outrigger boat for right-side paddlers to test in) and basically the boat is completely stable on outrigger side and completely tippy on the other side, so try not to lean away from the outrigger (in my case to the right).  In an interesting side note, my instructor Evelyn is a specialized veterinarian and my co-pupil Kayla runs what I would best describe as a hardcore dog walking operation for high-energy dogs.

After getting situated in the boat, my instructor had me get started paddling and she and the other student would catch up.  After paddling a ways, I slowed down and waited for them to get to where I was.  After doling out some more advice and information, we decided to cross the river and head back upstream.  Our instructor did not have a lot of time and did not want to stray too far from the dock.  When we got across,  Evelyn was giving Kayla some advice on how to stay balanced in the seat while paddling.  Figuring I could benefit from this knowledge, I stopped and turned my head to listen.  Evelyn and Kayla were behind me and to my right.  Do you remember what I said above about which side is stable and which side is tippy?  I didn’t remember either…at least not until it was too late.  As I turned to the right, I felt a shift in the boat and snapped my head around to the left just in time to see that the outrigger was flying up over my head.  Before I could even begin to react, I was floating in the lovely Schuylkill river replete with goose droppings.  Outrigger canoeing is a sport full of Hawaiian and Polynesian terminology and they have a word for the aquatic equivalent of a ground loop: Huli.  I had just expertly performed one.

Evelyn told me to remain calm and gave me the steps necessary to recover.  The steps are about as simple as you might expect - flip the boat back over, get in between the hull and the outrigger, climb aboard.  I was pleased to learn that after 6 weeks of unlearning everything I knew from kayaking, finally one of my kayak skills was going to help me.  When you are surfing on a sit-on-top kayak you flip.  A lot.  I am no stranger to righting a capsized boat and climbing back on.  Except I’m used to doing it while being pounded by the surf.  Carrying out this process in the flat and relatively calm waters of the Schuylkill was trivial.  My cohorts actually seemed somewhat impressed at how easily I was able to recover, but that was all in a days’ work for me.

After recovering, we did some solid paddling for 20 minutes or so.  Steering is annoying and it’s very easy to overcorrect and start zigzagging.  I wonder if they make one with a rudder that can be trimmed to go in a straight line?  We then headed back ashore where Kayla showed me how to put the boats away and properly secure them.  I had received my OC1 wings and could now go out on solo excursions.  Heck, I had even demonstrated competence in the self-rescue procedure.  Of course most of my good sense tells me that it’s not the best idea to set sail in one of these alone but I figured if I bring along my life jacket I should be OK.

Except the next couple times I went alone, I forgot my life jacket, but I did not have much time to practice before my test, so I had to chance it anyway.  I really didn’t have any trouble, though.  I went on a couple solo runs.  I found that I have a tough time motivating myself.  I think I need someone to push me or at least give me some workout tips, but that will have to come a little later.

For now, I had learned how to use the OC1 (and huli) and while I can’t say I was “ready” to start taking tests, I felt that I could at least give it a shot.

Leave a Reply