UNDER a setting sun moored boats in Pioneer Bay provided the perfect back drop for 21 paddlers from Outrigger Whitsunday this evening.

The paddlers were taking part in the inaugural Outrigger Challenge and were watched by sailors competing in the Airlie Beach Race Week.

President of Outrigger Whitsunday Nick Bellinger was on the beach organising the round-robin style in- house heats.

He said each competitor would paddle in four or five races.

"It's a 600 metre course. They will head out to turn around a boat and come back into the beach," he said.

Being the first year the event has been held to complement Airlie Beach Race Week on-shore entertainment program, the racing was designed as a demonstration.

"During Airlie Beach Race Week next year we want to have a much greater competition and maybe invite people from outside of Airlie Beach to come in to the program."

Also being considered for next year's event will be come-try session for boat crews and their families.

The outriggers used in Outrigger Challenge consist of six paddlers and a steerer at the back of the boat.

Guidelines that govern the OC6 (outrigger canoe) class state the boat cannot weigh less than 130kgs.

Outrigger canoe paddling has its origins in the development and spread of the coastal culture of the Pacific rim region and is currently enjoying huge growth as a team sport in Queensland. 


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