Falaniko Penesa of Samoa Crowned 2023 World Fireknife Champion


15 May, Laie, Hawaii. Source: Polynesian Cultural Center. Samoan Falaniko Penesa was crowned the 2023 World Fireknife Champion at the Polynesian Cultural Center over the weekend.

It is the third world title for the Puipa‘a knife dancer – having also won the 2017 and 2019 world titles.


Penesa took out the elite Men’s Division of the World Fireknife Championship after outstanding performances throughout the various stages of the competition.

The final championship round concluded an intense comp that began with 30 contestants.

Hailing from the village of Puipa‘a in Samoa, Penesa competed against Hale Motuapuaka of Wahiawa who placed 2nd, Matagi Lilo  of ‘Ewa Beach who placed 3rd.

Penesa’s victory concluded the four-day We Are Samoa Festival. As Hawai‘i’s largest annual Sāmoan cultural celebration, the festival featured four divisions of fireknife competitions.

The annual event featured We Are Samoa Fealofani Day and daily exhibits of Sāmoan culture and artwork throughout the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Concluding its 30th year, the World Fireknife Championship was established by the Polynesian Cultural Center in 1993 to showcase this proud Sāmoan tradition and encourage future generations to perpetuate this amazing combination of artistry, skill, and bravery.


Fire-knife dancing is rooted in the Sāmoan ailao – a warrior knife dance traditionally performed before battle utilizing the nifo oti, or “tooth of death.”

This year’s World Fireknife Championship featured competitions in four divisions.

Jeri Galeai of Lā‘ie, Hawaii won the Women’s Division, Cyson Lanikaula Woodward of Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i won the Intermediate Division (ages 12-17) and Kalivati “KJ” Volavola of Lā‘ie, HI won the Junior Division (ages 6-11).

About Polynesian Cultural Center 

Located on O‘ahu’s beautiful North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is the only cultural attraction of its kind in the world and a favorite of both locals and visitors to Hawai‘i.

Samoa is the Home of Taula

An engaging, interactive celebration showcasing the people, culture, arts and crafts of Polynesia, the PCC has entertained millions of visitors from around the world since opening in 1963.

A non-profit organization, 100 percent of PCC’s revenue goes to daily operations and to support the education of its student-employees from neighboring Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

For more information, visit http://www.Polynesia.com