Best Cheap Thrill

Canoeing on the ocean

  You can see them each sunny Wednesday evening and Saturday morning on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Six intrepid paddlers push a Hawaiian-style outrigger canoe into the surf and paddle off. Sometimes they hug the shoreline; sometimes they head toward the horizon. Maybe the opening notes of "Hawaii 5-0" will run through your head before you think, "Hey, this is the Atlantic!" Well, yes it is, and you haven't seen Fort Lauderdale Beach until you've seen it from one of these babies. Best of all, it's absolutely free to try out your paddling skills, and all levels of physical fitness can be accommodated. Show up on Wednesday around 6 p.m. or Saturday around 10 a.m. and you'll be given a five-minute lesson, then handed a paddle and life jacket. The core group is diverse in every way: age, level of fitness, and nationality. There's an easy camaraderie that becomes all the more obvious when you're in a canoe that hulies, which means it flips over. If that happens, you're no longer a newbie, and you become an official member of the Las Olas Outrigger Canoe Club. Some of the perks of membership -- if you stick with it, you'll eventually be asked to cough up $60 in annual dues -- include full-moon paddles, snorkel and dive paddles, the opportunity to participate in the Fort Lauderdale Boat Parade, and the chance to compete against other Hawaiian-outrigger canoe clubs springing up in Hollywood, Key West, and Palm Beach. But the first few times you're out, you'll just feel the thrill of synchronizing six strangers in an 18-inch-wide canoe against an unpredictable sea. If you don't try this at least once, you might as well be living in Peoria.
 
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