Outrigger Canoe Seat Roles

Every paddler brings their maximum strength, drive, technique, blend, and focus to the canoe, working together as a cohesive unit. There is no hierarchy among seats; each position is vital, and no one seat is more important than another. Every paddler is essential to the team’s success.

Each paddler is responsible for their own seat and its specific roles. Teammates must be open and flexible, welcoming coaching suggestions to improve their skills and be ready to paddle in any seat.

Paddlers must always listen to the steersperson’s directions and wait for their guidance. They must respect the steersperson’s authority and never defy their directions or tell them what to do. Additionally, paddlers must prioritize safety and be aware of tides and wind conditions.

Above all, we must respect and honor each other, the canoes, and the water we paddle on. Remember, we are a team, and we paddle as ONE.


There are six seat roles:

  • Seat 1: Stroker that sets the pace of the stroke
  • Seat 2: Stroker that mirrors seat 1
  • Seat 3: Engine room and call changes
  • Seat 4: Engine room
  • Seat 5: Engine room and steering support
  • Seat 6: Steersperson and captain


Seat 1

Seat 1, also known as the “Stroker” or “Lead Stroke,” sets the canoe’s style, rhythm, and rate. As a pure endurance paddler, they primarily focus on perfect technique, a consistent rhythm, and efficient power delivery. They need to be highly attuned to the canoe and able to adjust the rate according to various factors such as current, waves, wind, and the strength and power of the crew.

In high-pressure situations like racing, congested start lines, or sprinting, Seat 1 must have the mental control to maintain focus on consistent rhythm and technique, ignoring distractions around them. If their technique falters, the entire canoe suffers. Good communication with Seat 2 is crucial as they work together to set up Seats 3, 4, 5, and 6. In races, they also communicate the distance to the start line or buoy to the steersperson.

Seat 1 individuals are self-motivating, focused, and perfectionists who constantly evaluate their stroke, thinking: “Am I rotating? Is my catch strong? Am I smooth and consistent?” They must keep in mind that everything they do affects the entire boat. Additionally, they must watch the nose and listen for the steersperson’s direction, willing to move the nose quickly in close calls.

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: Seat 1’s job is to move the canoe’s bow into the wind and waves and maintain its position. If possible, they can hold paddles and personal items. 

Seat 2

Seat 2 sets the stroke for seats 4 and 6. It’s essential for them to mirror or have the same/similar stroke, rate, and timing as seat 1, as they do not have a blade in front of them to follow; this is a very underrated and technically challenging skill. Setting both sides of the canoe up to work together is vitally important. They must have technically strong and powerful changes, and if seat 2 misses a change, the entire canoe will be out of time. Technique is critical. Seat 2 is the main source of communication, support, and encouragement for Seat 1. Seat 2 is a team with Seat 1 and communicates to 1 if adjustments need to be made. 

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: Seat 2’s job is to climb over the canoe and use the iakos to help flip the canoe over together with Seat 5. 

Seat 3

Seat 3 is a crucial power seat, marking the beginning of the “engine room” in the canoe. With maximum access to the water, they can consistently deliver pulling power, using their weight as a stabilizer. As a center seat, Seat 3 benefits from less wave interference and sideways swivel, providing a solid and consistent connection to the water. This enables them to deliver high volumes of power with every stroke without affecting steering.

As the caller, Seat 3 is responsible for counting and calling the changes. Typically, they call “hut” on stroke 15 unless the coach or steersperson calls a power or conditions require shorter sets. Seat 3’s calls must be loud, consistent, and motivating, ensuring everyone can hear. As a link between the front and back of the canoe, Seat 3 passes on instructions from Seat 6 when necessary, using discretion. Ultimately, Seat 3 follows Seat 1’s lead.

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: Seat 3’s role is to swim around the canoe to the ama and assist in pushing it up, working with Seat 4, to flip the canoe over.

Seat 4

Seat 4 is a critical power seat in the “engine room,” requiring immense strength and endurance. This position demands individuals with deep power reserves to propel the canoe forward when needed. While Seats 1 and 2 set the foundation, Seats 3 and 4 build upon it, providing the power and momentum. A crucial aspect often overlooked in Seats 3 and 4 is balance. Both paddlers must possess exceptional balance, delivering maximum power on both sides of the canoe. Any imbalance, such as leaning to the left, will shift weight onto the ama, slowing the canoe and disrupting its course. This demands not only physical strength but also mental toughness.

As a secondary responsibility, Seat 4 provides support by bailing if needed. For timing, Seat 4 follows Seat 2’s lead.

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: Like Seat 3, Seat 4’s job is to swim to the ama and help push it up together with Seat 3 to flip the canoe over. 

Seat 5

Seat 5 is a vital power seat in the “engine room,” playing a crucial role in supporting the steersperson and contributing to the crew’s overall performance. While often serving as a training seat for new paddlers and coaching, a skilled Seat 5 can be a game changer with a talented crew. They assist in steering, stability, and strategy, providing a key point of communication for Seat 6. Seat 5 needs a strong catch and solid pull to effectively handle the “airy” or “dirty” water passed back to them to excel. Their stroke must be smooth, strong, and straight to avoid turning the canoe and hindering the steersperson.

As an integral part of the powerhouse, Seat 5 also has the best view of the canoe, enabling them to quickly react and prevent capsizes (huli) by monitoring the ama. They follow Seat 3’s timing.

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: Seat 5’s role mirrors Seat 2’s, climbing over the bottom of the canoe to pull the iako towards them and flip the canoe over.

Seat 6

Seat 6 is the steersperson and “captain” of the canoe, responsible for motivating the crew and providing positivity, direction, and feedback. They possess an intuitive feel for the canoe and a high skill level, enabling them to read ocean conditions and identify the best lines to ensure safe and successful navigation. While contributing to the canoe’s power, the steersperson must balance paddling and steering with minimal drag. They wield a larger paddle, delivering short, powerful bursts of power when needed, but must do so smoothly and in time with the rest of the canoe to maintain rhythm and timing. Confidence and effective communication are essential for this leadership role, which requires time and practice to master.

Huli (Capsize Recovery) Role: the steersperson takes charge, ensuring everyone’s safety. They are the captain and are responsible for the following:

  • Accounting for all paddlers by listening for each seat number
  • Directing and assisting in the huli execution
  • Maintaining the canoe’s position, facing into the wind and waves
  • Holding paddles and personal items, if possible
  • Being the second paddler on board to stabilize the canoe.