The Storm in the Pacific Northwest

Single and double (OC1 & OC2) Outrigger canoe paddling is growing around the world, as more and more people discover the Polynesian sport of Outrigger Canoeing. A strong community of canoe paddlers can be found in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest, where vast beauty can be found on the ocean, sounds, lakes and rivers. For those willing to brave the elements, they will be rewarded with rich experiences and the aloha of a close-knit community of paddlers who come together to race, train, and celebrate life.


The Pacific NorthWest Outrigger Racing Association or PNWORCA (commonly pronounced ‘P-N-W orca’) is an association of outrigger canoe clubs located in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. The association maintains close ties with canoe clubs in British Columbia, Canada and CORA, the Canadian Outrigger Racing Association.

“Hawaiian Outrigger Canoeing is a lifestyle culture, with many challenges, I admire the many leaders and volunteers who continue to perpetuate this sport over the generations and more to come, they are the true Ho’e Wa’a (paddlers) that comes from the heart.”
-Boy Chun Fook

President of PNWORCA, Boy Chun Fook, changes focus from six person sprint races in the summer to distant races that continue into the fall. In the winter, paddlers challenge themselves on OC1 and OC2 in the Winter Series, a seven event point accumulating series of races in Vancouver, Washington, and Oregon.

The final race in the series is located on Lake Washington in Seattle and hosted by Sail Sand Point Outrigger. The course varies each year depending on conditions; the goal however is for the race to be challenging and with a mix of conditions. This year, with a storm from the south, there was a steady 15+mph wind that provided an opportunity for a one way 10 mile downwind run.

The Storm

Not to be confused with the weather system, which also made a showing, the Ozone Storm made its debut. We caught up with the Storm rider, Eric Gerstle, and asked a few questions about the canoe. Here is his review of the event and the Storm:

I have been paddling the Storm off and on for about 5 months now. The Storm is such a responsive canoe, probably due to both the light weight construction and design, it took me a few sessions to get it dialed in. I’ve had it out on a few downwind runs up here in Bellingham, and besides trying to carry it when the wind is blowing, I really enjoy this canoe in the surf. Because it is so responsive, you can put it where you want and the lightweight construction makes climbing and jumping onto waves relatively easy. (1)Bumps here have less fetch then in Hawaii and tend to be shorter, steeper and closer together. Surprisingly, the bow doesn’t get buried in these conditions, at least not with me paddling (165-170lbs). I seem to be just a bit slower in flat water compared to the Hurricane, although not much. JD mentioned there was a flat water test done and the Storm was faster than the Hurricane? I know the Storm is a bigger volume boat so maybe my weight or minimal time in the canoe has something to do with it.

Last year I paddled a Scorpious XM. When I jumped in the XM, it felt very familiar like I had paddled it for years. A very comfortable and solid canoe. First time paddling the Storm was not the same, I could tell that the boat had different characteristics. For example, I don’t think it is as forgiving as some of the other canoes on the market. Every time I take it out I love it more and more. I do feel however, that the canoe will favor someone who already knows how to paddle and has downwind paddling knowledge and experience.

It’s too bad my brain fart lead to a different line than my competition at PNWORCA champs. It would have been nice to try to give the Storm some justice. I guess it did give Kevin someone to take photos of during the race.

If you have any more specific questions about my experience paddling the Storm, let me know.

Hope to see you out on the water soon! P.S. It’s a freak’n cool looking canoe!
– Eric Gerstl

Northwest Photographer extraordinaire Kevin Mchugh, covered the Championship race and provided us with excellent imagery of the Storm in action.

See more images and read the race story here.

Thanks to Eric Gerstl for the feedback, and to Kevin Mchugh for the excellent photographs! Also, mahalo to PNWORCA for your examples of commitment and for your contribution to the paddling community.

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