I recently signed up for the Singapore Country of Origin outrigger canoe (OC) race.
Wait, outrigger canoeing? O_O
It’s likely incorrect to say that OC is like the sister of dragon boating. That’s just the funny way I see it. Both involve paddling in the water. Plus, other expat teams like the Australians and Americans have OC components.
I signed up because I am curious to learn outrigger canoeing. Two acquaintances reached out to me when they saw my registered name for the Singapore CoO. I was invited to a rookie session they held under Team Kidlat. Thank you Ryan and Mdm Mickee for letting me try OC with Team Kidlat.
The first thing they taught us was what to do in the event of a capsize. They call this the “Huli Drill” where they purposely capsize the boat. The five or six people on the boat each have a particular role to turn the boat back on the upside and to bail out water.
Because I had gotten used to wearing my personal floatation device (PFD) during dragon boating, I was a little apprehensive to jump into a boat and then have it capsized over open water. Parang… WTH! I’m so not ready for this. According to Ryan, PFDs aren’t usually worn during OC. WOW. Open water and no PFDs? While in the calm waters of Kallang, required ang PFDs. I’ll just follow what’s taught.
But I decided to strap on the PFD that was available underneath the seat. We started the “Huli Drill” and we fall into the water. I go underwater (but with my PFD). I float back up. And my job at position 5 was to hold onto the wooden bridge that connects the hull to the “ama” (outrigger part of the canoe). Basically, 2 and 5 stabilise the boat. 1 and 6 are in-charge of collecting the paddles that are “drifting away”. While 3 and 4 work to turn the boat back upright.
In the exercise, 3 and 4 jump back into the boat and start bailing out the water.
I realised that wearing the PFD actually slowed things down. I was instructed to swim underneath the boat to get to the other side. I struggled because of the PFD but I made it to the other side and started to hold the “ama” to stabilise the boat.
I decided to remove the PFD altogether and face my fear.
It wasn’t bad pala. In fact, adrenaline started to kick in once I removed the vest. Parang, this is the real shit George. Get your act together and do as told.
Eventually the water was bailed out. And we had to climb back up onto the boat and head to shore. We were only about 20 or 30 meters from the shore anyway!
HULI DRILL – success! However, it was a bit slow! We were being timed pala. I had no idea (siguro kinakabahan sa pagbagsak sa tubig). I want to do the huli drill again and do it faster. Competitive lang.
OUT TO SEA
We transferred to a double hull setup and then ventured out to sea. Good thing I paddled in Boracay before so paddling in open water wasn’t so daunting. Plus, everyone in the session were experienced dragon boat paddlers as well coming from DBS, Singapore Paddle Club (SPC), Canadian Dragons, Spanish Armada, etc. — so, I have faith in them!
This is where it got interesting. Every few strokes a command would be called to signal shifting your paddling to the opposite side. In dragon boating, I paddle on the right side. So when it was time to paddle on my left… it felt really funny! I wasn’t confident in my reach or stroke. Para naging “easy paddle” lang but I didn’t want to paddle softly… duh. I tried to paddle equally but my right side had more aggression.
The waves were choppy at times. But the boat was pretty stable. With the repetitive commands to swap paddling side… it was good practice. I struggled with how to change the hand position on the paddle from left to right and right to left. But I don’t think I missed a stroke.
We paddled along the southern coast of Sentosa. We started off at Siloso Beach, passed by Palawan Beach, and then stopped at Tanjong Beach for stroke correction.
We paddled out to sea again towards Sentosa Cove. There were yachts and tugboats (i think). The water was choppy along this side of the island. The views were gorgeous. You can see the elite condominiums of Sentosa’s private side. You had cargo ships in the distance. The skies at 5:00 pm were beautiful.
Returning back to Siloso felt like forever. I felt I had the endurance naman thanks to dragon boating and running. I was more concerned about my form. Trying to familiarize myself with the kind of stroke they were teaching for OC. It’s a bit different from dragon boating. I can’t explain since I’ve only had one session so far.
Back at the beach we lifted the double hull boat up from the shore and to a parking area. No debriefing or huddle. Just cleaning and tidying up the boat before everyone hit the showers.
I love the water. I’m happy to say I now have experience with both dragon boating and paddling in an outrigger canoe. I think there’s still so much to learn. But at least I’ve removed the kaba from OC and paddling in open water. I remember that feeling of removing my PFD during the huli drill and throwing it onto the boat.
I’m registered under Team USA for the upcoming Singapore Country of Origin race in August. But while I wait for instructions or a training schedule with Team USA, I’m happy to paddle and make new friends with Team Kidlat (who also happen to be Filipino paddlers from other expat teams).