Thursday 11 August 2023 Apia Harbour, Samoa. Translated from FaaSamoa. A ceremony was held on Wednesday morning to bless over 20 vaa to be used in the International Va’a Federation (IVF) World Distance Championship hosted by Samoa at Apia Harbour next week.
The beach was packed with hundreds of athletes already in Samoa for the event, as Samoa’s Minister of Tourism delivered the keynote address in a beautiful setting along Apia’s beach waterfront.
Samoa Global News caught up with the man who introduced the sport to Samoa over 35 years ago back in 1987.
Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale says it was not easy to introduce the sport into Samoa, but they were well supported by the Government of the time, led by then Prime Minister Tupuola Tamasese Efi.
“We faced the usual financial constraints of trying to gauge support and resource the sport,” said Tuatagaloa.
“As a new sport, we also faced challenges with trying grow interest and lure athletes in to join up..”
“At that time,” reminisces Tuatagaloa, “those who are leading the sport today like Su’a Ulugia Jay, were all running around still very young..”
The pioneer of alo vaa in Samoa said he is elated to see the growth and development of the sport to where it is today, and to witness the heights that today’s leaders have taken the sport.
“To see the thousands of athletes and supporters from around the world flood our shores to participate in Samoa’s historic hosting of this international event, is indeed a blessing.”
Tuatagaloa said it is rewarding to see the sport grow from one club to the several clubs in Samoa, and is proud to see SOCA hosting such a global event.
The Minister of Tourism in his keynote address called on the Samoa Outrigger Canoe Association (SOCA) to utilize the 20 brand new fiber glass vaa to help grow the sport in Samoa.
“Please make sure you don’t stop after the world championship, but continue to grow your sport into the rural areas, and not just Apia.”
The Minister welcomed participants, athletes and supporters from more than 28 countries to Samoa.
A parade is being organsied for Saturday morning along beach road, with the first events jump starting on Monday morning.
The presence of thousands of visitors is being felt in Samoa with booked out hotels, rental cars and restaurants with trickle down effect to farmers, taxis, handicrafts, shops and supermarkets for supplies.
The Samoa Outrigger Canoe Association is well supported by local businesses who have stepped up to help sponsor and host the event.
The South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) is also a major sponsor of the IVF World Distance Championship which has been marked as a plastic free Green Games.