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New canoes blessed on our shores

American Samoa Association of Paddlers and major sponsors American Samoa Visitors Bureau, SteinIager, National Pacific Insurance, SoPac Distributors (Budlight), and Sadie’s Hotels gathered on Tuesday afternoon for the blessing of the 6 new outrigger canoes in Utulei. [photo: Ese Malala]Rev. Ioane Evagelia and Michael McDonald, President of the American Samoa Association of Paddlers (ASAP) on Tuesday afternoon in celebration of the six new outrigger canoes being blessed in a ceremony at Sadie’s by the Sea beach. [photo: Ese Malala]Miss American Samoa Antonina Lilomaiava, who attended the blessing ceremony for the six new outrigger canoes, on behalf of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, who has sponsored one of the new canoes, on Tuesday, at Sadie’s by the Sea beach in Utulei.  [photo: Ese Malala]A representative of SoPac Distributors (Bud Light), who sponsored one of the canoes, for the Le Vasa Club celebrating the blessing of the new outrigger canoes on Tuesday afternoon at the Sadie’s by the Sea beach in Utulei. [photo: Ese Malala]

For the first time in over 20 years our shores have been blessed with new outrigger canoes says Michael McDonald, President of the American Samoa Association of Paddlers (ASAP).

On Tuesday afternoon, the American Samoa Association of Paddlers celebrated the new six-man outrigger canoes with a Blessing Ceremony.

Rev. Ioane Evagelia blessed the new outrigger canoes and is no stranger to paddling. He use to organize a very competitive paddling team in 2006, so the new outrigger canoes have inspired him with renewed interest.

“I feel honored … to bless these canoes because I know it will bless us and our community,” Rev. Evagelia told Samoa News.

“These are the first new canoes to arrive in the territory since about year 2000 when the Honorable Lt.Governor, then head of the Army Reserve, brought two boats down from Hawaii for local-style physical training for men,” according to the ASAP press release. “Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga has always been a staunch supporter of our program.”

In addition to the several of the canoe sponsors, and long time regatta partner Department of Commerce, thirty paddlers were on hand to witness this historic event. 

The new canoes are Tahitian style canoes fabricated by Varua Va’a in Fiji and are light, fast, and safe in big water.

And, as a real bonus to the logistical planning, a new manufacturer started making boats that fit in a container. This made the shipping easy and kept the boats from being damaged in transit, ASAP said.

“I love the new canoes because any big person can fit in it and it’s also light to carry to the shore compared to the old ones,” said one of the local paddlers.

There are four paddling clubs on island Teine ole Tai, Laumei, Le Vasa and Alo o Samoa, according to the paddlers association.

“Some members of the clubs purchased canoes so that ASAP could host international races which use the same type of outrigger canoes, and are much safer on the water,” ASAP said.

It added, “One of paddlers’ medium range targets is to develop international races similar to the Sydney and Liberty Challenges.

“In addition to the six larger canoes, six one-man outrigger canoes were purchased at the same time. The one-man boats open up opportunities for hosting races in this class as well. Some of these races are sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines and have attracted many paddlers and supporters.”

American Samoa is an attractive destination for paddlers, swimmers, and many other water sport activities. “The water here is one of the best in the world for paddling especially in the heart of Polynesia,” ASAP said.

After several years of trying to figure out how to fund and transport a new fleet, four of the paddlers decided to approach the local business community for support.

The response was outstanding and the new fleet was made possible by the corporate sponsorship of Sadie’s Hotels, SteinIager, National Pacific Insurance, American Samoa Tourism Bureau, SOPAC, and Pago Pago Trading Company, which sponsored the canoes individually. All Star Graphics is also one of the sponsors.

Miss American Samoa Antonina Lilomaiava told Samoa News, “On behalf of American Samoa Visitors Bureau, it’s an honor to be one of the sponsors because we want to promote our island to everyone, and it is a real pleasure to see paddlers enjoy the traditions of our ancestors to paddle and to make use of our resources.”

Le Vasa Club’s Coach Paula McDonald said to Samoa News, “Since we started our Le Vasa Club, we have gone out to look for those who can sponsor and help us to race off-island such as Bluesky, TMO, SOPAC and others, so this makes it easier for us to have a relationship with them as they see we have been committed to their contributions, especially SOPAC over the last couple of years, which now has been made easy for them to sponsor us this year again with our new canoe.”

Current President of ASAP, Michael McDonald added, “With these new canoes, we hope to grow participation in the sport and schedule regular races throughout the year. We also hope to further develop the sport to where we will be able to host an annual or semi-annual international race, luring paddlers from all over the world to American Samoa.”

The first local race for the year is scheduled in March for St.Patricks Day. For more information like the facebook page for American Samoa Association of Paddlers online.