Saturday 23 April 2011 | Published in Regional
Though outrigger canoeing is a wildly popular sport in the Cook Islands, the paddle-making industry has yet to really get off the ground.
From a consumers perspective, there is not much choice in terms of locally-made paddles and a lack of competition means higher prices for imports.
Members of the Cook Islands Canoeing Association and outrigger enthusiasts alike are hoping to grow a paddle-making industry on Rarotonga, and theyre planning to get the ball rolling soon.
I hope its an emerging business for someone in the paddling community why should someone be paying a high cost for imported paddles when we can make them here? CINews managing editor John Woods, who dabbles in paddle-making, said. Were even importing them from Tahiti, where its a strong cottage industry.
Gisborne native Lawrence Woodcock, who for 18 years has been making custom Lorenzo paddles out of his workshop, was on holiday in Rarotonga recently.
Paddling enthusiasts picked his brain for technical tips and attempted to persuade him to return to Rarotonga and host a paddle-making workshop.
Woodcock said he would be keen to come back and run a workshop, but at this stage cannot confirm timing.
By day Woodcock is a cabinet maker and after work, he makes paddles. While hes lost count of how many paddles he has produced over the years, he estimates he makes about 60 a year, which would put his total output at over 1000. Local champion Reuben Dearlove owns one of Woodcocks paddles, which he emblazoned with his logo Lorenzo NZ.
All are made from native woods hand shaped, and Woodcock uses just a few simple tools a portable workbench, a hand plane, a modified belt sander (he replaces the belt on a 70ml sander with a 100ml) and an electric planer among them in a home workshop.
He shapes paddles not because its a lucrative pursuit but because he loves the sport and the people who participate.
To encourage new paddlers or inexperienced clubs to take up the sport, he will often sell a custom paddle at a discounted price. He says that if paddling keeps a kid off the street, hes happy to sell a paddle at a reasonable cost.
Thats the sort of attitude we need here its not to make money, just to equip people with good paddles, Cook Islands Canoeing Association (CICA) vice president Brent Fisher said. To Woodcock, he said: Like you, I just want to see the sport go.
Fisher said that to host a paddle-making workshop on Rarotonga, local paddlers would have to cover the cost of importing timber and materials, but Woodcock pointed out that it doesnt take much.
When I first started making them all I had was a bench two legs and something to put my foot on to hold the bench, he explained. It was a piece of wood with legs clamped to a sawstool really.