Paddling Commands

Walk the canoe forward/
Walk it back
While seated in the canoe at the boat launch ramp, use your hand to move the canoe forward or back along the dock. Don’t let go of the dock.
on the
Rest your paddle on the gunwale of the canoe. Almost immediately followed by Mākaukau/Paddles up. Place your paddle with the blade on the opposite side of the person in front of you. Generally, the Stroker will begin on the left, so Seat #2 will begin on the right, etc.
Mākaukau /
Put your paddles in ready position, that is, above the water and prepare to begin paddling. This command literally means “Ready, prepare, able, competent, capable, handy, efficient, proficient, versed, adept, skilled, qualified; to make ready, to prepare.” As you put your paddle and yourself in ready position, you can respond, “‘Ae,” (pronounced, “eye”) “Yes, consent, agree, approve, confirm.”
Paddles up /
Hoe hapai
See Mākaukau / Ho’omākaukau
Huki“To pull.” Begin paddling.
HitBegin paddling or take only 1 stroke if you are doing Hit Drills
Hut/HoThe kāhea said by the Caller (usually the paddler in Seat #3) to initiate everyone changing sides on which they are paddling. After you hear “Hut,” generally said that the top of a stroke, respond by saying, “Ho,” as you take one more stroke on the side of which you are currently paddling. Then immediately switch sides.
LawaStop paddling. Literally, “enough, sufficient, adequate.”
Hold waterAn action to stop the canoe from moving. Plant your paddle in the water on the left side of the canoe with the blade perpendicular to the gunwale.
Back paddleStroke on the left side of the canoe starting from the back and moving towards the front. Stay in time with the Stroker.
Buck it overThis action moves the canoe laterally to the right. Place your paddle in the water against the left side of the canoe with the blade parallel to the gunwale. Then push your paddle to the left towards the ama.
KahiLiterally, “to cut.” Place your paddle in the water away from the canoe with the blade parallel to the gunwale. Then, push the blade under the canoe. This draw stroke is generally done by Seats #1 & #2 and usually on the left. On the Steerperson’s command, it could occasionally be done by Seat #1 on the right while everyone else leans left.
DrawSee Kahi. The Steersperson will usually indicate which side to stroke, e.g. “Draw left” or “Draw right.”
Power up /
Dig in
Put more pressure on the blade; bring your paddling effort up to 100% power. This command is often used when the Steersperson is fighting strong wind or current to make a turn or maneuver to the dock.
on the left
All paddlers paddle on the left side of the canoe. If you are already paddling on the left side, stay there; if you are paddling on the right side, immediately switch over to the left. This command is used to put more pressure on the ama and make the canoe more stable usually when making a turn in choppy water.
MahaloLiterally, “gratitude; to give thanks.” Done at the end of practice when the canoe returns to the dock. The Steersperson will count to three (in English or Hawaiian) and everyone is invited to express gratitude for a safe paddle by saying “Mahalo” often accompanied by tapping tenderly on the side of the canoe.
PostReach out and place your paddle in the water on the left side of the canoe away from the gunwale. Your blade should be parallel to the side of the canoe or slightly turned out. This is can be done by the Stroker to help turn the canoe left or by the Steersperson to turn the canoe right. If the Steersperson has to do a hard poke on the right, Seat #5 may be asked to post on the left.
KauLiterally, “to put, to set, to place.” See Post.
UneLiterally, “to lever.” Generally, this is done by Seat #1 to assist the Steersperson in turning the canoe around a flag during a sprint race. Seat #1, places the blade of his or her paddle against the right side of the canoe parallel to the gunwale. This is similar to when the Steersperson pokes to turn the canoe.
I mua
Literally, “to go forward, progress.” Everyone paddles forward. This command is usually given after the canoe has made a turn around a flag during a sprint race and the Steersperson wants the canoe to go straight.
PokePlace your paddle flat against the side of the canoe. If done by the Steersperson to turn the canoe, try to angle the blade forward. See Une above done by Seat #2 during a sprint turn.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

While it is not required, our club encourages paddlers to wear a personal flotation device (PFD, e.g. a life jacket). If you do not have your own, you may borrow one of the basic orange PFDs which fits around the neck and ties around the torso. Also, six of these orange PFDs are kept in each canoe when we paddle in case they are needed.

The most popular brand of PFD among BOCC paddlers is Vaikobi. However, some paddlers also wear dragon boat style PFDs.

Although optional, wearing a PFD would definitely be good if you were ever in cold water. Here is a classic video of what happens to your body in cold water and how you can maximize your survival in that emergency situation.


Vaikobi is the most popular brand of personal flotation device (PFD) worn by our members. On its website, you can also purchase paddling clothing and accessories. Vaikobi PFDs are made specifically for paddlers: they allow you to have a wide range of motion so it doesn’t interfere with your stroke, and they do not ride up when you sit in the canoe.

If you would like to try on a Vaikobi PFD for sizing or fit, ask one of our members who wears one if he or she would let you try it on, or you can go to 101 Surf Sports; call ahead to see if they have any in stock.

Huli Recovery Video

Here is a great video from our sister club, Hi’ilani ‘O Ke Kai, that explains how to recover from a huli. This video gives a good basic overview of the standard procedure.

However, in the BOCC version that we use, #2 and #5 straddle the canoe while #3 and #4 help to push the ama up. Then, once the canoe has been re-righted, #3 gets into the canoe first on the right side to begin bailing followed by #4. Meanwhile, #2 and #5 hold down the ama to stabilize the canoe.

Huli Recovery Overview

  1. Hold on to the canoe
  2. Steersman calls for everyone to count off (say your seat number beginning with #1)
  3. Check your partner, relax & breathe
  4. Tuck your paddle up under the seats
  5. Seats #1 & #6 position the bow and stern to control canoe (usually towards the wind or waves)
  6. Seats #2 & #5 climb on the hull
  7. Seats #3 & #4 hold onto the ama
  8. On the Steersperson’s count, flip canoe over
  9. Brake ama from hitting the water hard, if possible
  10. Seats #3 & #4 swim to the canoe, get in and start bailing
  11. Seats #2 & #5 hang on iakos
  12. Seat #6 gets in to direct when others should get in
  13. Paddle off into the sunset

If you huli with spray skirts on the canoe (e.g. during a race):

  • Once flipped it is possible you may still be in the canoe.
  • If this happens, pull down on zipper (We have attached plastic balls on the end of the zipper to pull with so you can find zipper fast.)
  • Use your feet to push off from the bottom

Various Methods to Get Into the Canoe from the Water

  1. Forward pull up
  2. Leg under seat for leverage
  3. Push inside hull of canoe at bow or stern with both legs
  4. Use of Huli strap
  5. Crewmate’s shoulder as a step
  6. If person is injured, you can pull him or her on board by using the huli rope under the arms of the injured person whose back is against the canoe

Method #1 and #2 could be used to enter the canoe when doing a water change.