As paddling becomes more and more popular in Samoa, there will always be the issue of the availability of equipment, specifically boats.
But that is now a thing of the past with Samoa’s very own boat building factory located behind M & J Ah Fook and run by Tuiloma Papu Williams.
Tuiloma who built boats in Hawaii returned to Samoa in 2011 for the primary reason of giving back to the community with his boat building talents.
Aside from the top quality boats he builds, he also uses the unique Samoan designs that gives his canoes that extra hint of special that will also appeal to the international market.
The factory will also be providing 20 boats for both the Alo Paopao and the Te Aito International Tournaments held here in Samoa so they already have their work cut out for them.
“This is new to Samoa,” Tuiloma told the Samoa Observer.
“I build high class composite fibreglass boats; I have been doing it for over 20 year in Hawaii and I came back to Samoa about 2011.
“When I came back I found out that a lot of people had been getting involved in paddling and I noticed that there was a lack of equipment.
“Everyone is starting to get into the sport and there is a real need for this equipment and that is what brought me back home.
“I see that people are willing to spend the money to buy these sort of high tech boats because it’s pretty expensive and that’s how it all started.”
Paddlers currently have to ship boats in from overseas which results in paying double the amount, but that will change with the new factory.
“When importing boats from overseas, it costs us twice as much money,” Tuiloma said.
Tuiloma even sees opportunities and the possibility of exporting from Samoa.
“Building our own boats will make it cheaper and even better. We could even turn the tables and send the boats overseas.
“That was the thing too, because when I was in Hawaii, a lot of people from New Zealand and Australia wanted the boats but it was too expensive to send them from Hawaii.
“I preferred moving here because I found that Samoa, Australia and New Zealand have a pretty good trade relationship.
“This factory will benefit the economy greatly.”
But since the sport is still in its infant stage in Samoa, the demand isn’t too high.
“Right now the demand is the million dollar question,” Tuiloma said.
“I know the market over here is not that big; pretty much what we’re focusing on is the whole Pacific; mainly New Zealand and Australia because the sport is growing over there. “Paddling isn’t really that big right now here in Samoa but we’re looking to the future and there are a lot of people heading here. There is still a lot of support from the companies; they are willing to buy the equipment.”
According to Tuiloma, the lack of equipment is one of the many factors that is holding Samoa back from paddling in the top ranks.
The skills are present but Samoa just doesn’t have enough boats and the ones we currently have are the older models, he said.
Helping Samoa is only one of Tuiloma’s goals with his new factory.
“For me it’s nice to do something for Samoa as I am getting old,” he said.
“It’s not always about the money; I want to leave behind a legacy so people will remember me as the man who came back to bring a really good trade for Samoa.
“The moulds I use to make the boats could also be used for many other things such as car fenders.”
But as expected, everything good will always have its own set of challenges.
“One of the biggest challenges is the availability of material for the boats because we can’t even buy material here in Samoa,” Tuiloma said.
“We get it all the way from the mainland but thank God that I found out this week that there is now a boat coming straight from Hawaii.
“That will get the materials to us very fast. The lack of materials is making it really hard for us to make the quota for the upcoming tournaments held here in Samoa.
“Another challenge we are currently facing is the people. Building is easy but the people sometimes make it tough.”
Tuiloma’s message for Samoa is simple and clear.
“Take up paddling because it is a really good sport,” he advises.
“It is one of the sports which you and the whole family can take part in It is a very good, healthy activity and you can have a seven year old paddle alongside their grandfather.
“You could get hurt from other sports like joint pains, but with paddling you will be exercising and having fun at the same time.
“So if you have time, then give it a try.”