It?s outrigger paddle power

By ADRIAN MILLER

KAWAIHAE means 'gathering of water' in Hawaiian so when Steve Cooper decided to start the Kawaihae Outriggers Canoe Club Ballina, he realised a more fitting name for it couldn't be found.

The name not only reflects Ballina's position at the mouth of the Richmond River, but connects the Ballina club to the Kawaihae (pronounced Ka-why-e-hi) Canoe Club, situated on Hawaii's 'Big Island'.

"When I was considering a name suitable and appropriate to the area we got in touch with the club over there and asked permission to use the name and they were happy to have us involved," Cooper said.

That was in 2005 when the club formed with only six members.

Now the club has close to 100 associate members and next week about 20 of them will travel to Coffs Harbour to compete across three divisions in the Australian Outrigger Canoe Championships.

Cooper said the club, which would compete in open men's, open women's and mixed divisions, was confident.

"There are a lot of top crews coming from all over, and we'd be happy with a top 10 finish," he said.

"Because the open women are competing on Thursday they are struggling to get time off work, but the mixed crew are quite strong so we stand a good chance in that event, possibly a top three.

"We've proven ourselves in the past and we race quite well in open water, so hopefully that will continue."

Even a lack of a racing canoe would not hinder the club, Cooper said.

"We have four canoes but none are raceworthy, so we normally borrow from other clubs like Burleigh and Tweed Heads and they've been very supportive," he said.

"To have our own race boat would be super but that would cost about $15,000."

Starting at the Coffs Harbour pier before heading to the open ocean, the men will compete over a 20km course, the mixed crew over 15km and the women 8km. Men's team member Damien Evans said all the crew were eager to hit the water.

"Coffs Harbour is a fantastic place to canoe," he said. "It's a nice bay which provides a good entry to the open water and they always put on a good event. "We're really looking forward to it."

Given results at their previous two Coffs meetings, it's not hard to see why they enjoy racing there.

"The first time we raced at Coffs, which was our first ever race as a club, we came 10th out of 20," he said.

"In the next year the men came sixth and the mixed came first, which was fantastic."

But while the club is heading down with the intention of competing fiercely, Evans said they wouldn't lose focus of their primary goal ? having fun.

"The club has a good bunch of people," he said. "Other clubs always comment on Ballina and how we're a really friendly, social club and they enjoy our enthusiasm."

Keep an eye out for an upcoming instalment of Adrian Miller's Been There, Done That series where he tries not to fall out of an outrigger canoe!



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