Outriggers have two hulls connected by spars (support bars), one from where the paddle steers and one, adjacent and usually on the port side, for stability. However, stability is not created by the shape of each hull but the distance between them. The main hull is usually longer in length than its twin sister which essentially is a float. Outriggers with a rudder are called "va'a" from Tahitian and Samoan.
Paddlers use a J-stroke, moving their single-blade through the water on one side to drive the craft forwards whilst sitting facing the same direction.
Number of paddlers in an outrigger canoe (OC) can vary from OC1, OC2, OC3, OC4 and OC6. Larger outriggers may double-support hulls (DC), the shape not dissimilar from a modern day catamaran – meaning that there could be up to 12 paddlers in any one boat.
In multi-person boats, the paddler in the front seat is the pacemaker whilst the one in the rear end seat steers, the strongest paddlers would maintain the pace from the centre. One is the 'caller' instructing the crew when to switch blade position (if required to do so).
Outriggers are fast crafts built for ocean-going, inter-island travel as well as dissecting rough waves. Slightly different types have been used by different sea-faring island-nations for centuries: "Waka ama" in New Zealand Māori, "Wa'a" in Hawaiian, "Vaka" from the Cook Islands, "Bangka" in Indonesian or "Oruwa" in Sri Lankan meaning fishing canoe and, as mentioned above va'a. Some vessels may have had a sail (canoe-sailing) for far longer ocean voyages.
Nowadays, outrigger is fast-becoming popular globally because of its camaraderie and the development of more flatwater river clubs. Six-person is the most common discipline in ocean competitions (cross-channel, 250-500m, 42km marathons).
One-person va'a outriggers are used in Paralympic and World Championship paracanoe sprint on flatwater.