When and where are races?
Ke Kai is a member of the Northern California Outrigger Canoe Association (NCOCA) and the majority of the races we participate in occur in Northern California (with additional races in Southern California and Hawaii). Race season is typically May-September and includes both long distance and sprint (regatta) races. For the full race schedule of the year, refer to NCOCA's Events Calendar.
Canoes the beach before the annual Memorial Day Race on Monterey's Del Monte Beach
What does a race day look like?
Race days are loads of fun! Race days typically start with all paddlers available to help unload and rig canoes at the race site (often about 60-90+ minutes drive from Monterey). Setting up gear and canoes often takes about 1 full hour of time.
Clubs hosting races will also hold a pre-race meeting for coaches and steerspeople to review the race courses and water conditions. All paddlers will join together for a pule (blessing) before the first races get on the water. After the day's races have concluded, awards are announced, the site is packed up, and paddlers de-rig and load canoes for the journey home. Long distance races typically conclude in the early afternoon whereas sprint races wrap up by mid/late afternoon.
No matter what kind of race - the day is always full of good paddling, teamwork, and a lot of fun.
Crews line up for the start of a sprint race at Monterey's Del Monte beach.
What is the difference between sprints and long distance races?
Sprint regattas are shorter distances that range from 250m to 2000m along set race lanes that are 250m long. There are usually eight sprint lanes (eight canoes on the water at a time) Most sprint races are 500m and include one turn around a buoy. These races have many heats and finals. Most paddlers can expect to race in up to 3-4 events (maybe more!) per sprint regatta. Sprint regattas also have events for OC1 (single) paddlers as well as OC6 races.
Long distance races range from 4 miles to 10 miles, depending on race division, and crews launch canoes according to a set schedule with three launch times. Typically, the first race of the day includes keiki (kids) crews and novice crews; the second race includes experienced women and co-ed crews; the third and final race includes experienced mens crews. Paddlers only race once for a long distance race. Each race may see 20+ canoes on the water at a time.
Who will my crew be?
Crews are set based on years of experience, age, and gender. Paddlers will race as novices for their first two years in NCOCA (except for junior paddlers, who can join junior or keiki crews). As novices, you will race as a 6-person team of novice women, novice men, or novice co-ed. After your novice years conclude, you will then join your age division (open: ages 20-39 / master: 40-49 / senior master: 50-59 / kapuna: 60+).
Coaches will also consider your training, attendance at practices, and race-day availability when setting crews for races. Depending on how many paddlers are in your race division, your crew may consist of the same paddlers for every race or you may paddle with different crews each race based on who is available, the length of race course, and to ensure that all paddlers have an opportunity to participate in races. Ideally, crews are determined far enough in advance of races so that crews have ample time to train together. Seats in canoes can also be filled by paddlers from other clubs, and vice versa - you can be a guest paddler with another club who needs someone from your division to fill a crew!
It's all hands on deck when it comes to loading our canoes to tow to and from race sites.
What should I bring to a race?
Having an enjoyable race day requires some prep work! It will be important to bring to the race:
Race gear! (including your race jersey, hydration pack, paddle)
Water - for drinking, racing, and cleaning up.
Food - most race sites do not have food services or nearby vendors. Pack what you will need to eat.
Sunscreen and hat - even for cloudy locations!
Camp chair - when you're not racing, you'll probably want to relax and watch the other races.
Sunglasses / Glasses / Contact lenses
Changes of clothes - prepare for both hot and cold weather; both are equally likely!
Beach shoes - if you're not wearing paddling booties, what's on your feet?
Hand sanitizer - porta potties are the usual facilities and may run out of soap and water
Cash - there is often fun race gear for sale or raffle tickets to purchase!
How much does racing cost?
Race fees are determined by NCOCA and by the clubs hosting races. Long distance races are $25 per paddler per race and sprint regattas are $6 per paddler per race (expect ~2-4 race events per paddler for each sprint regatta). Race fees will be collected during practice times before race day.
Additional costs can include transportation, food, lodging (if desired), as well as the initial purchase of a club race jersey (~$25.00).