Roles of Paddlers in the Canoe

Seat #1Stroker (Mua) who sets the pace for the rest of the paddlers
Seat #2Second Stroker who follows the pace set by Seat #1 and is followed by Seat #4
Seat #3Part of the Engine Room and is usually also the Caller who does the kāhea (i.e. calls the changes)
Seat #4Part of the Engine Room who helps to move the canoe
Seat #5Part of the Engine Room and backup Steersperson
Seat #6Steersperson (Ho’okele)

Sprint Turn

Please review the list of paddling commands. During sprint races (regattas), canoes must make at least 1 left turn around a flag (e.g. 500 meter race; 3 turns in a 1,000 meter race; 7 turns in a 2,000 meter race).

  • As the canoe approaches the flag, the Steersperson may say, “Coming in!
    • The Caller makes sure that Seat #1 is on the right and Seat #2 is on the left before the turn is initiated.
  • Once the turn begins, the Steersperson says, “Une!
    • Seat #1 pokes to the right, that is, he or she places the paddle against the right side of the canoe with the blade parallel to the gunwale in a steering position.
    • Seats #3, #4, #5 reduce their power to about 50-60%.
  • As the canoe’s ama approaches the flag, the Steersperson says, “Kahi!
    • Seat #1 switches sides and joins Seat #2 in drawing under the left side of the canoe.
    • Seat #2 begins to draw left under the canoe.
  • As the canoe rounds the flag, the Steersperson will say, “Huki!” The canoe’s momentum will help complete the turn. The Steersperson does not want to over turn.
    • Seat #1 switches sides again, so he or she is back on the right side, and paddles forward.
    • Seat #2 paddles forward on the left side.
    • All paddlers power up to get the canoe moving.
  • After about 7-9 strokes, the Caller makes the kahea to initiate a change.

Here is a video from the 2016 World Sprints which show crews doing sprint turns around a flag. However, please note that in our club, the paddlers in Seat #5 and Seat #6 do not usually draw right while Seat #1 and Seat #2 kahi (i.e. draw left).

Race Start

This technique was introduced by former BOCC coach, Dee Lowe, who adapted it from a dragon boat race start. The intent is to get the canoe up and running quickly in the beginning, and then settle into a strong, smooth, long stroke. This particular start helps paddlers who may be anxious or unfocused at the start of a race to confidently work and think together.


  • 5 long, deep, powerful strokes to get the canoe up on the water. These first give strokes will be inevitably slow because the canoe is starting from a stopped position.
  • 10 fast and shorter strokes at 100% power on the same side for a total of 15 strokes from the start.
  • The Caller says “Hut” on stroke 14. Everyone changes sides after the 15th stroke.
  • 10 fast and short strokes on the other side at 100% power.
  • The Caller says “Hut” on stroke 9. Everyone changes sides after the 10th stroke. These first two changes are sometimes referred to as 5-10-10.
  • Follow the Stroker who should lengthen the stroke and settle into a long, smooth stroke at race pace (80-90% power), or you can push yourself and go for 95-100% power.
  • The Caller says “Hut” on the 12th stroke. Everyone changes sides.
  • Maintain race pace for the next three changes (6 changes in total for each Race Start Drill usually done several times at the end of practice on Saturdays).