Seat 1 Stroker:
Seat 1 sets the pace and should strive to paddle at the same rhythm throughout unless catching a wave or doing a racing start. #1 can feel the paddlers, the waves and the conditions and experiment with the pace until the crew syncs up. It is the job of everyone else in the boat to imitate the stroke, rhythm and body motion of the stroker whether they think s/he is doing it “right” or not. By definition, the stroker’s way IS the “right way”. However, good strokers can feel the crew and conditions and adapt the stroke and pace to get the best out of all 6 paddlers.
While going upwind the stroke rate will be slightly slower than downwind. Pick up the stroke rate when going downwind or with the swells.
#2 talks to #1 but only if #1 wants it. Before starting out ask #1 how much and what type of talking s/he wants. Some #1’s just want encouragement. Some want to know when they are not reaching enough. Some don’t want any talking. Find out. Seat #2 is one of the more important seats since if #2 is out of time, half the boat will be off. Seat #2 is also responsible for leaning on the ‘iako when the boat is at rest or about to huli. Otherwise is silent.
Calls the changes (Hut, Hu). Otherwise is silent. When the canoe is in surf, 3 should call changes when the nose of the canoe comes up and it wallows behind the wave. 3 should not call when the nose goes down and the crew is trying to catch the wave. You may call once the canoe is solidly being swept along on the wave. In the open ocean, the waves usually come in a regular pattern so that 3 can find the optimal number of strokes per call so that the crew is not changing when trying to bring the canoe down on the wave. Don’t stubbornly call on 15 when the waves are coming on 18. In irregular surf, shorter (12 count) calls leave some room to hold the count longer (up to 20) when catching an unexpected wave. Try not to space out and leave your crew on one side for 25 or 30 counts. Tahitians call on 9. In Hawaii we call between 12 and 20.
Seat 4 is responsible for leaning on the ‘iako when the boat is at rest or about to huli. Is silent.
Except as noted above, seats #1-5 should be silent. It creates friction and makes an unsafe canoe for seats #1-5 to correct other paddlers, argue with or contradict the steersman, give advice, or give orders. If you think a steersman is wrong, obey him/her anyway with a respectful attitude and talk to the coach once you’ve reached shore. On no account should you stop paddling unless the steersman calls “lawa” since the steersman cannot control the boat if the crew isn’t paddling. This is of utmost importance in challenging conditions such as a wave about to hit the boat, the boat needing to make a sharp turn or when coming into shore.
To repeat: Crew should NOT give advice or orders, argue with the steersman, or stop paddling!
The safety and cohesiveness of the crew depends on the steersman being obeyed exactly and immediately. Do not weaken the trust of the crew by undermining the steersman’s authority. Don’t think that just because you have more paddling years than the steersman, that makes it OK to talk. It doesn’t! A divisive boat is an unsafe boat. Traditionally, the steersman has the right to throw any paddler out of the boat (anywhere — even offshore) if s/he is not cooperating.