Teams Compete in Canoe Races

June 25, 2004

CANOE racing is one of the newersports in Costa Rica and it’s the goal of oneman, Niel Kahn, to make sure it catches on.Located about 25 minutes from theCentral Pacific beach town of Jacó in PlayaAgujas, Kayak Jacó, Kahn’s company, hassponsored outrigger canoeing races forabout two and a half years. The next race isscheduled July 3-4.“An outrigger canoe is like a canoe witha training wheel,” Kahn said.These types of canoes have a floatingdevice attached to one or both sides of thecanoe, making it virtually impossible to flipover. Because outrigger canoes are narrowerthan other canoes, without the floatingdevice they would be susceptible to tippingover, he explained.The narrower the canoe, the faster it isable to move through the water. The canoesKahn uses are 21 inches wide. But theymeasure 13 meters (40 feet) long, enablinga team of six to sit comfortably in the longstretch.“I’m working hard to make this popular,”Kahn said. “In Costa Rica it’s a newsport. Most people don’t know that it existsand I’m trying to create it. In Hawaii, forexample, this is the equivalent to soccerhere. Kids start at age six, they haveleagues, they get their high school lettermanjacket for it.”A FRIEND suggested this type ofcanoe to Kahn as a way to take moretourists out on the water at one time insteadof using kayaks, which are smaller.“So then I researched, studied, trainedmyself, went to Hawaii and learned how tobe Costa Rica’s expert in outrigger canoeing,”he said. His company has used outriggercanoes for more than three years (out oftheir seven years in business).Teams from the United States will becompeting as well as area Tico teams. Therace, for experienced canoers, will consistof about two hours of intense paddling andbegins at 9:30 a.m. near Jacó Beach.“The sport is really interesting in thatit’s 100% team-oriented,” Kahn said.“There’s not one person who’s the quarterback.”The second race at 12:30 p.m. will bemuch easier and is an open event for anyteam of six who would like to participate.“They don’t need to know anything,”Kahn said. “We will provide them with asteersman and we’ll show them how to paddle.”AND Alex Sanchez, owner of the sponsoringcompany Lio Te, added that the raceis not about individual strength.“It’s not a very physically demandingsport,” he said. “There is a lot of strengthwith six people working together. It’s moreabout knowing the sea – the waves, the tideand the current.”The only requirement?“They have to be in good enough shapeto paddle hard for 30-40 minutes – if theywant to win,” Kahn said.Beverage company Lio Te is also providinga climbing wall and a canopy ziplinefor the public. Asunset beach dance from 5-9 p.m. will follow the day’s activities. A 10-mile sea kayak race is scheduled Sundaymorning at 8 a.m. followed by an openevent where people can participate in a 30-minute just-for-fun race.PARTICIPATION costs $100 per teamand includes prizes and the cost of lunch. Toregister teams, call 643-1233 or online atwww.kayakjaco.com.

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