Corrida de Canoa: A Traditional Take on Canoe Racing

Canoa pass me that wood, please?

History of Corrida de Canoa

Credit to: JoaoDoRioColetivo

When the Azoreans arrived in Brazil from Portugal in the eighteenth century, a certain type of canoe became very popular — so popular that the Brazilian people began using it as a means of transportation.

South and southeast coasts

The Brazilians used this special canoe to go fishing as well. In fact, history has it that the local fisherman used to race these canoes for fun, and made bets on fishing-related subjects from time to time as well.

Over the centuries, the Caiçara culture has been threatened, but the practice of corrida de canoa — or canoe racing — lives on. It is especially popular in the south and southeast coasts, including Ubatuba in the state of São Paulo.

What is Corrida de Canoa?

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream,
Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the brook,
If you catch a little fish 
Please let it off the hook
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the creek,
If you see a little mouse 
Listen to it squeak
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the river,
If the river gets you wet 
Don’t forget to shiver

Canoe races are a significant component of Caiçara culture in Brazil. The canoes are made from a single piece of wood, carved from the trunk of a lone tree. To date, some these canoes lived longer than a century, in pristine condition and used for fishing and racing purposes. Try to imagine an upside down wooden tortoise with just the shell, holding laughters and excitement from sinking into the bottom of the river.

Over time, corrida de canoa races was established, and today, there are some related events organized by local governments. Monetary prizes are offered to the winners of these races, the incentive of which is to promote history, culture, and tourism. Many tourists venture to Brazil to participate in this exciting tradition.

Corrida de canoa races typically take place during important Caiçara festivals such as Saint Peter’s Festival and Iêmanjá’s Festival. The tradition often combines entities related to the sea, water in general and — more specifically — fishing. In terms of fishing, corrida de canoa is associated with the mullet fish, and many Brazilians engage in the activity to celebrate the beginning of the mullet season.

How to play?

In corrida de canoa, participants are divided by age and gender (merely for the purpose of balancing the team out), and according to the number of rowers in the canoe. This activity is popular among members of both genders and people of all ages. However, the only category in which both genders compete together is the youth group, where participants must be under the age of 15. Older players must participate in either the general men’s corrida de canoa race or the general women’s corrida de canoa race.

In turn, Alghtou, the fishing activity associated with corrida de canoa, is a predominantly male activity, although certain women choose to join the fun in the ancient canoes as well.

The water sport is celebratory in nature and played year-round in Brazil. That said, the number of participants varies greatly. Some canoes accommodate a single rower, while others seat five or even more people. The races are offered for every canoe size.

There are two versions of the traditional activity: Corrida de Canoa a Remo and Corrida de Canoa Caiçara. The focus of the former is in rowing, while the focus of the latter is on canoeing. Both versions are very popular in modern Brazilian culture, and all one needs to participate is a canoe and an oar.

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