When we connect over what we love most, something magical happens! When great cooks, artists, or athletes learn from one another their shared humanity is on full display. Join us as we paddle out into the depths of what makes us human and see, yet again, there’s a common connection waiting for us wherever we go.

The members of the USA Men’s Rafting Team experienced this kind of common connection as they journeyed from the whitewater of the Rocky Mountains to Hawaii’s surf to learn the ancient sport of outrigger canoeing. Over a love of paddling and the water two cultures came together to share a life-changing experience.

On this installment of Saturdays Around the World, we’re heading to Hawaii. There, we’ll meet some of the members of the US Men’s Raft Team as they embarked on a new journey. Together, they set out to learn about the art of outrigger canoeing from those keeping the ancient tradition alive.

This adventure is a celebration of cultures that illustrates the beauty in our differences.

Image: outrigger canoe paddled by the US Mens Rafting team sits off the shore with a double rainbow behind them

Courtesy of Forest Woodward

Outrigger canoes are an iconic part of Hawaiian culture. They have been a part of seafaring cultures for thousands of years. In Hawaii, the first known boats of this type arrived around 200 AD. Canoes large enough to hold 80 people explored the waters around Hawaii in search of new lands.

These canoes were an essential part of life for islanders. They transported food, people, and made fishing the shores of Hawaii’s islands possible. From this canoeing culture grew the sport of outrigger canoe racing. The boats were used by islanders daily for races and life had their own world of ritual and ceremony. Each canoe was crafted from a single tree and took everyone from priests to craftsmen to build. 1

From White Water to the Open Ocean

When the USA Men’s Raft Team started their journey to bridge the gap between their rafting roots and the open ocean they were in for an incredible experience.

Watch as two cultures meet, celebrate, and learn from one another. Not to mention, you’ll get a great appreciation for the incredible skill it takes to paddle the open seas!

Via: Gnarly Bay 2

If you want to check out more incredible films like this one go check out Gnarly Bay’s Vimeo Page, you can also learn more over on their website!

You can also see more of the director, Forest Woodward’s, work on his website. Or keep up with him over on Instagram!

On a delightful side note, I hardly ever read the comments under a video. But for some reason on this film, I did and found this beautiful gem from Erik Bradley:

“As a common man who does common things every day. It’s things as this video that fill my soul with a sense of everything all around me. I absolutely loved this. Thank you for making it.”

It’s such a marvelous sentiment. One that points out the kinds of things that captivate us, and brings us such elation. Now, I’ll work to recognize those moments that “fill my soul with a sense of everything all around me.”

The Beauty in Connecting Over Our Shared Passions

There is a certain joy when people connect through the things they are most passionate about. Even with a language or thousands of miles between them, people who are doing what they love and passing their knowledge on experience something powerful.

Sharing a recipe, our trick of a craft, a form of celebration, remind us of how closely connected we can be.

In my research, I found a great story that illustrates the beauty of these kinds of shared connections.  A few months ago we wrote about the Hokule’a, a double-hulled sailing canoe built in Hawaii to help traditional Polynesian navigating techniques stay alive for generations to come. 

When, in the late 1980s, the Polynesian Voyaging Society set out to build a second boat, they had a problem. The mission with this boat was to learn more about how the canoes would have been traditionally built. Unfortunately, the once-massive Koa trees that were historically used to build such a ship were nearly impossible to find due to deforestation.

Then, in 1990 a group of native Alaskan tribes stepped in to donate two spruce logs to help build the canoe. The statement they sent along with the logs beautifully illustrates the ways in which we can celebrate our heritage in the process of sharing it:

“Both the reality and the symbolism of the Hawai’iloa project breathes hope and inspiration into all peoples seeking to maintain their traditions, heritage and culture in a society that does not place a high priority on such things… You do it for the Hawaiian people, but it reaches far beyond. In your canoe you carry all of us who share your vision and aspiration for a people to live and prosper with their future firmly built on the knowledge of their heritage and tradition.” 3

Sharing our heritage with people who are passionate to learn more, and eager to learn from masters has the potential to create something remarkable.

Our worlds are filled with the potential of connection. Whether we are connecting with people from wildly different backgrounds, or just reconnecting with a relative, finding those places for common ground have the potential to unlock all kinds of knowledge.

I hope that you find the people that share your passions, and that give you something new to learn. These are the kinds of experiences that will help us all continue to grow.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


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  1. Hawaiian Paddle Sports. “Hawaiian Outrigger Canoeing | History, Revival, Today.” Hawaiianpaddlesports.com, Hawaiian Paddle Sports, hawaiianpaddlesports.com/social/outrigger-canoeing/. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  2. Gnarlybay. “(People) of Water.” Vimeo, Gnarly Bay, 10 June 2019, vimeo.com/341353580. Accessed 18 July 2019.
  3. Hokulea Archive. “The Building of Hawai’iloa.” The Building of Hawai’iloa, archive.hokulea.com/ike/kalai_waa/hawaiiloa.html. Accessed 18 July 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV