Forget World Cup soccer (or futbol, if you’ve seen the Manning/Beckham ad on TV). For Tahitians it’s outrigger canoe racing that takes top billing among sports fans.
This year’s 29th annual Hawaiki Nui Va’a race—the largest and most popular va’a race in the world, and the ultimate traditional Polynesian sporting event—took place in The Islands of Tahiti October 26-28
Hawaiki Nui Va’a could best be described as the Super Bowl of outrigger canoe races.
Traditional outrigger canoeing, or “va’a“, has a long sacred history inTahiti. More than a sport, the va’a tradition reaches back to more than 4,000 years, as the original mode of transportation for native Polynesian people to navigate between islands.
Hawaiki Nui Va’a could best be described as the Super Bowl of outrigger canoe races. It’s the world’s largest, longest, and most exhilarating international open ocean outrigger canoe event, and is the ultimate test of strength and endurance for both men and women. Six-person crews race 79 miles in just three days from the island of Huahine to Raiatea (27 miles), then from Raiatea to Tahaa (16 miles) and finally from Tahaa to Bora Bora (36 miles). The Hawaiki Nui Va’a is the most difficult V6 pirogue race in the world given its duration and intensity, challenging the limits of all its competitors.
Following the competition, traditional music and dancing can be found at the finish line on the island of Bora Bora. Entourages of avid fans follow by canoes and boats, creating a colorful regatta throughout the race.
This year was as action-packed as ever, with several teams battling it out to the bitter end in the canoeing classic. In the end, however, it was Team Shell Va’a taking the top spot overall in the men’s open division; Faanui Bora winning the Junior men division; and Havai Raiatea winning the Masters men’s crown. More importantly, however, it again paid homage to a tradition that has been passed down through the ages and connects all involved with Mana, the life force and spirit that connects all things in Tahiti.
“The Hawaiki Nui Va’a race is a tradition that honors our ancestors and celebrates the Mana or spiritual force of our islands,” says Gina Bunton of Tahiti Tourisme. “With each paddle stroke that carries participants over the waters we feel more connected to our past and are ensuring our tradition continues for future generations.”
Indeed, Hawaiki Nui Va‘a is a competition that immerses everyone into the culture and soul of the Polynesian people, reviving memories of the voyages of their Mā’ohi ancestors in search of new horizons to explore.
About The Islands of Tahiti: Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are just eight hours by air from California. Surrounded by pristine, crystal clear blue waters, the 118 islands and atolls offer natural beauty, authentic island culture, and unique French Polynesian style. Located in the South Pacific, The Islands of Tahiti are on the same side of the International Date Line as North America, and are in the same time zone as Hawaii. The Islands of Tahiti are world-renowned for their white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons and varied landscapes ranging from coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. Each island offers a variety of accommodation experiences from luxurious resorts with overwater villas, to family guesthouses, to sailing via private charter or scheduled cruise.