Sixth Seat, First in Importance
The sixth seat in a 6-man outrigger canoe may be the last, but it’s probably the first in terms of importance, difficulty, and required skill. Some paddlers have been part of a 6-man paddling team but have never been in the position to steer – with good reason. It takes plenty of persistence, proficiency, and yes, confidence to assume that pivotal sixth position.
When paddling in the sixth position, you have to keep the canoe headed straight and keep five other paddlers from veering left or right. Being the Steersman is not for the faint of heart, yet in many ways it is the heart and soul of the 6-man canoe.
For purposes of this Blog, we will use the terms 6-man and Steersman generically. The English language is fraught with gender-discriminatory language, and the outrigger world is no different. But know there are plenty of expert women paddlers who will never steer you wrong as members of a 6-man racing canoe. You’ll meet one of them shortly.
Elaborate guides are written on how to steer a 6-man outrigger canoe: https://issuu.com/stevewest/docs/kanuculturesteering. There are also online articles: outriggersantacruz.org/wp content/uploads/2015/01/steering_an_outrigger_canoe.pdf.
Here is one of many videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3p7StNa1_E. You can even sign up for a Steering Training and Certification Program for a 6-man outrigger: www.dragonsports.org/uploads/2/4/0/8/2408892/ocsteerspersoncertification_4_2_2.pdf.
But we’re not here to give you a “How To” tutorial on steering a 6-man outrigger, whether it’s an OC6 or a V6. Different people have different methods of steering and learning how to steer. And what’s standard practice in the waters of the South Pacific might be anything but standard for paddlers on the “mainland” USA. It also depends on the canoe, the paddlers, or even your canoe club. But face it, wouldn’t you rather learn how to become a better Steersman in the water instead of having to dive into a book or a course? We thought so.
Become a Better Steersman.
So what’s our “One” sure way to become a better Steersman? A V1 rudderless canoe.We believe nothing prepares you to steer a 6-man outrigger like learning how to paddle a V1. The smooth glide and responsive steering of the V1 give you the feeling of being “at one” with the water. What’s more, not having the luxury of a rudder challenges paddlers to be attuned to every stroke; to constantly adjust to the waves, currents and winds; and to master the art of steering. Just what’s required in the sixth seat of a 6-man canoe. Paddling a V1 heightens your instincts and helps you better anticipate each stroke. And it helps you hone your skills as no OC1 canoe can do.
But don’t take our word for it. Ask people who paddle V1 rudderless outriggers – or even better, ARE Tahiti V1 outriggers, which are designed for unparalleled glide, less drag, and heightened responsiveness. That’s exactly what we did.
Hisano Asato Tasedan paddles with the Newport Outrigger Canoe Club in Southern California. She has been paddling for several years – first in an OC1 canoe with rudder, then with the OC6, including being in that all-important sixth seat, as Steersman. She only started using the lightweight V1 a little over a year ago but has seen a steep ascent in her paddling skills. And others at her club will tell you she was pretty darn good even before she got into a V1.
“What is especially notable about paddling a V1 rudderless canoe,” says Hisano, “is how tuned in you are to every stroke and to everything around you in the water. Your level of focus and awareness is so much greater. You train yourself to make constant adjustments. I just love it!”
– Hisano Tasedan
But it doesn’t end there. What Hisano has seen is the dramatic difference that paddling a V1 makes when she gets in a 6-man outrigger, especially as the Steersman.
“Just like in the V1, in a V6 you are constantly adjusting to the ever-changing movement of the water and the other elements. After a while you are able to do it as a reflex. Best of all, it frees you up to do more stroking than poking in the sixth seat. It’s like giving your team an extra paddler.”
– Hisano Tasedan
Take your lead from the leaders
Maybe that’s one reason the Tahitians are so adept and their 6-man ARE Tahiti V6 Matahina canoes are virtually unbeatable. It’s that extra paddler. They learn on rudderless canoes, where they develop the skills to master the waters and the art of paddling. And there’s no reason you can’t master those skills and become the best paddler you can be, whether it’s in a 6-man V6 Matahina, an OC6, or in the canoe that helps you best transition to the V6 – the V1 rudderless canoe.
With less drag, greater glide, and faster speeds, we believe the V1 rudderless canoe is the fastest way to improve your skills and your speed. And, because the V1 mimics many of the challenges faced by a 6-man canoe, it’s probably the fastest way to accelerate your transition to a V6, especially as the Steersman.
Wat’s more, you’ll enjoy the sheer exhilaration of “being at one” with the water and, when steering a V6, “being at one” with the five other members of your team.