Roles of each seat in an Outrigger Canoe
Seat 1 sets the style, rhythm and rate for the canoe. The rate will vary depending on conditions, but is usually somewhere around 60 strokes/minute. They should be able to feel the run and attitude of the canoe and will adjust the stoke to suit prevailing conditions and the other paddlers to deliver optimum performance. Number 1 is a pure endurance athlete; their primary concern is perfect technique, a consistent rhythm and efficient power delivery. Under no circumstances should a number 1 allow themselves to become so physically exhausted that their stroke begins to suffer, when seat 1 fails the team fails. When the heat is on (racing other canoes, congested start lines or sprinting) they have the mental control to ignore everything that is going on around them and maintain focus on consistent rhythm and technique. They are self-motivating, focused and perfectionists who constantly think about their stroke (am I rotating, is my catch strong, am I smooth and consistent) knowing that everything they do effects the entire boat.
Seat 2 mirrors Seat 1, this is vitally important to set both sides of the canoe up to work together. They depend on the body and arm movements of Seat 1 to determine the rhythm and rate as they do not have a blade in front of them to follow; this is a very underrated and technically challenging skill. They must have technically strong and powerful changes, if seat 2 misses a change the entire canoe is out of time. If seat 1 sets the rhythm and rate for the team then seat 2 sets the timing, teamwork and glide for the entire canoe, one small lapse in concentration and the canoe will loose its run. Timing with seat one must be perfect in entry, exit, stroke length and power delivery. Number 2 is the main source of support and encouragement for Seat 1 and looks after seat 1 above all else, if the rate, rhythm or technique of the canoe fails they are as much at fault. It is beneficial for seat two to have ocean and wave experience as when downwind surfing they will call the rate changes for seat 1 when catching waves. The 1/2 combination is a team within a team and is the foundation on which the canoes performance is built.
Seat 3 is a power seat and part of the engine room of the canoe. In most cases this is a seat for a stronger/heavier paddler. From here they have maximum access to the water and can consistently deliver pulling power with their weight acting as a stabiliser. The center seats of the canoe (3,4) suffer less from waves and sideways swivel and have the most solid and consistent access to the water, as a result they are relied upon to deliver consistent, high volumes of power with every stroke. They must drive the canoe forward to allow seats 1 and 2 to set a consistent rhythm. 1 and 2 cannot do an effective job unless they get the required drive from power seats.
Seat 3 is in control of the calls (Huts), it is often underestimated how important this role is. Calls must be consistent and more importantly motivating; seat 3 must have a clear, strong voice and be able to call an aggressive, motivating hut. When you are 3 hours in, worn out and racing for the line the motivation of a strong aggressive call is paramount. If the call sounds weak or tired then that will translate to the whole crew. The focus of Seat 3 is also to follow Seat 1 like a shadow and be able to instantly adjust to any changes in seat ones tempo and rhythm, timing must be perfect.
Seat 4 is also a power seat. Seat 3 and 4 are the “fire-breather” seats. These are your bigger, stronger paddlers who can reach down into the depths of their strength reserves and give everything they have when needed, they are the paddlers that will take you past another canoe, get you out of trouble and get you off the line and around turning buoys in the sprints.. If seat 1 and 2 are responsible for setting the foundation of the canoe then seat 3 and 4 are responsible for using that foundation to provide the power and the go-forward. Seat 4 works with seat 3 as a team within a team, seat 4 is the prime motivator for seat 3 and is there to ensure that seat 3 and 4 work together to deliver maximum effort when needed. One thing often overlooked in seat 3 and 4 is balance, these athletes must have supreme balance and be able to deliver maximum power on both sides of the canoe any lean to the left by the power seats will translate into weight directly on the ama and this in turn will slow the canoe and pull it offline. Mental toughness is
also a requirement of the power seats, even when the power is on and the muscles are burning these seats need to be able to deliver “perfect” timing, seat 4 must be a shadow of seat 2 matching their stroke precisely. In addition Seat 4 is located in the best position for bailing and keeping the canoe dry (as much possible).
Seat 5 requires all round skills and needs to be a truly intuitive and adaptable paddler. Seat 5 is an integral member of the powerhouse but also has the best view of the canoe and can clearly see the Ama and must be quickly able to react to prevent a capsize (huli). Seat 5 is in the best position to monitor the timing of the canoe and must make sure the boat is working together; they must also have perfect timing themselves as they will destroy the run of the canoe and disrupt all the good work of their teammates if they are out of time. Seat 5 needs to deliver power to the canoe and support the efforts of seat 3 and 4, they need to be able to do this from a higher, less stable position and while encountering the “dirty water” created by seats 1-4, this is a tricky and underrated skill, more than anyone in the canoe they must have a strong, solid catch on the water and in this respect their technique must be perfect. Their stroke needs to be strait, smooth and consistent, any deviation from a strait stroke in seat five will pull the canoe offline and make life hard for the steerer and seat 1 as the canoe will weave. When the going gets rough seat 5 is
one of the most important seats in the canoe, running with waves seat five works with the steerer to become the “outboard motor” that drives the canoe onto waves, they are in the best position to feel the rise of the tail of the canoe and work intuitively with the steerer to push the canoe onto runners.
Seat 6 – the steerer
Steerers motivate the crew, providing positivity, direction and feedback. Their ability to read the water and identify the best line to navigate can be the difference between a good team and a great team. Steering requires an intuitive feel for the canoe and a high level of skill (it is not easy) especially in ocean conditions. The steerer still needs to contribute to the power of the canoe and needs to be able to balance the requirements of steering and paddling. Steerers carry a larger paddle and can deliver short, powerful bursts of power when required, however if this power is not delivered in a smooth fashion and in time with the rest of the canoe then it will destroy the run, rhythm and timing of the entire boat. Poorly delivered power from the steerer will cause the canoe to surge, weave and jump. It cannot be stated strongly enough that the steerer must ensure they are in time and rhythm before trying to provide power to the canoe. A steerer needs good intuition and must be able to predict what the canoe will do and proactively and use small, light corrections to guide the canoe rather than reactively correcting the canoe with heavy steering inputs. The moment a steerer feels heavy pressure from a steering input then he/she knows they have destroyed the run of their canoe. Steerers must be confident, good communicators and understand that their prime role is to respect and not waste all the effort and work of the 5 paddlers that form the team in front of them.