Riwut racing still popular on Lae.

Riwut canoe builders and captains prepare to launch their canoes during a race at Lae Atoll recently. Photo: Deo Keju.

KAREN EARNSHAW 

The spirited sport of riwut racing is alive and well on Lae Atoll. Deo Keju, who works for the Public School System in Ebeye and was in Lae for work, reports that racing the model canoes is a “regular game among the boys (late teen and up) and especially men (20s and up ’til no age limit) … Regular means no season.”

Deo said that anyone is free to take part, which is a great alternative to sitting around doing nothing. And it’s not just about seeing which guy is the best boat builder, it can also involve small bets on the races. “I learned, for example, that $10 is a good amount of money to put in a bet.”

Deo watched two riwut events in April, one oceanside, the other lagoonside. The ocean race saw about 30 riwut competing while about 13 captains took part in the lagoon race. 

Riwut racing comes and goes in Majuro. In the late 1990s and early part of the century it was a regular event in the oceanside bay behind Riwut Corner. A few years ago, there was a resurgence of riwut racing with captains and catchers competing near the Marshall Islands Club in Uliga. This was a delightful experience for patrons of Chit-Chat restaurant at the MIC as the captains sent their super-fast vessels in the direction of the popular pizza parlor an hour or so before sunset.

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