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In The Aloha Spirit

Stevenson hosts big canoe race July 19-20

The Gorge Outrigger Races, billed as the largest event of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, returns to the Stevenson waterfront this weekend for the seventh year in a row.

Participants from 15 clubs in the Pacific Northwest Outrigger Racing Canoe Association, and crews from California and Canada are expected to compete Saturday and Sunday on Columbia River courses.

On Saturday, six-person crews will race their 45-foot canoes over a 9.5-mile course that begins and ends at the waterfront park's Sternwheeler Pier. As many as 30 canoes will be vying for bragging rights in both men's and women's competitions. Racing starts at 10 a.m.

One-man and two-man canoes will take to the water on Sunday, starting at 9:30 a.m., for racing on a 5.5-mile course. Organizers predict at least 100 participants will enter this growing segment of canoe racing.

For more information, call Cat Betts at Waterwalker, (509) 427-2727.

Outrigger canoe paddling originated with the development and spread of the coastal culture of the Pacific Rim region some 30,000 years ago. These canoes played an integral role in the survival and transmigration of ancient cultures.

Thousands of years later, outrigger canoe racing became a competitive sport and maritime advancement saw the canoe evolve into today's sleek racing boats.

The first canoe race, initially for men, took place in 1917 at Waikiki in the Hawaiian islands.

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