Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List
HomeCanoe Respect

Cultural advisor Kimokeo Kapahulehua recently gave a talk at Kihei Canoe Club regarding wa`a (canoe) respect and etiquette. The session was recorded and is available to view via YouTube in 3 parts:  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

The following is a written summary of the presentation with additional information at the end.
  • Traditionally canoes are always carried into and out of the water.  Doing so shows proper respect for the canoe.  But many older paddlers cannot carry the canoe because they no longer have the strength or they could injury themselves physically.  If the canoe cannot be carried, multiple rollers or wheels should be used to move it.  If at all possible, however, we should strive to carry the canoe.
  • The canoe represents our kupuna.  Out of respect, we would not drag them over the sand on beach, sit on them, step over them, etc.  If using rollers, move the canoe carefully and with respect.
  • Never leave a canoe unattended in the water or on the edge of the beach with any canoe part in the water
  • Always face the canoe toward the ocean. This shows respect for the canoe and ocean.
  • Be sure canoe is stored safely away from high tides or surf - High up the beach and 2 or 3 tires in the front.
  • Keep the canoe and all of it parts clean.  Wash after use and if needed, before use. Don't leave sand on the canoe. Bail out the canoe so no water stands in it.  Treat the canoe as you would treat yourself or others you love.
  • Always check bailers, manu plugs and rigging before paddling a canoe
  • Do not play in the canoe, stand on the seats, sit or rest on the iakos or gunnels, or step over the canoe.  No stick paddles in the sand.
  • Bring positive actions, feelings and thoughts into the canoe.  Leave any pilikea - trouble at home. No negative energy or arguing in the canoe.  Always have a good attitude. If you don't have something positive to say, don't say anything. 
  • Be honored to have a seat in the canoe.  Own the spirit of Aloha while in the seat. 
  • Everyone in canoe should be kupono - to be forthright, honest, and fair in their relationships with others.  If anything goes wrong in the canoe, it's everyone's fault, not just the steersman. In the canoe, we are one ohana, not six.
  • Be maka'ala, - alert, aware, vigilant, watchful, wide awake.  Know the tides, the currents, the wind, the waves, and the weather forecast.
  • Take care of the canoe, the beach and the ocean.  Pick up trash and debris from the beach. While paddling, retrieve plastic bottles, etc. from the ocean.
  • Teach these principles to others in the club.

Also see:   Respecting Your Outrigger 

Malama ka wa`a na ohana Kihei Canoe Club !!!

Throughout Hawaii and Polynesia, the canoe is highly respected and taken care of.  The canoe is created with similar protocols, blessed with similar blessings, carried into and out of the water, washed after use, not sat on, stepped over or stood in.  An example of this is "Proper respect for the canoe" by Kauila Ho on the Keōua Hōnaunau Canoe Club website which states:

“It’s important to understand that in the Hawaiian culture, the people were very connected to the elements. The canoe was a way for the Hawaiians to experience all the elements of nature at the same time. They could experience the earth by being in the canoe because the canoe comes from the earth. They could experience the ocean/water because the canoe rides on the water. They could experience the wind and air currents all around the canoe.

It’s important that we have no bad thoughts or feelings when we work on a canoe, touch a canoe or paddle the canoe because these things transfer to the canoe.

The canoe is the ‘kaona‘ or metaphor for the Hawaiians in terms of living on an island. Because what do we have to do to move the canoe forward? The six people have to work together. Living on an island, we are isolated. Hawaii is the most remote location from any landmass in the world. They had to understand that, and really work together as an ohana.

When we say ohana, we don’t just mean immediate family but extended family, such as our canoe club and the whole of the Honaunau community. We work together in the canoe as well as in family and our extended ohana.

These are the things we need to remember when we get in the canoe. We treat it with respect but also be pono. Be pono not only with the canoe but also with the people we’re paddling with. If you have issues with the other people in the canoe, it’s like one person is paddling backwards. That person is then paddling ‘opposite’ everyone else. It’s counterproductive.

For the canoe to move forward, we need to work together. All as one. One canoe, one ohana, one community.”

Additional information on Hawaiian canoe building protocols can be found by visiting the following links:

Events News Racing Paddling Chants Scholarships Policies Canoe Information
Kihei Canoe Club • P.O. Box 1131 Kihei, HI 96753 • 808-879-5505