Laumei paddlers having fun while winning

Laumei Outrigger Canoe Club had their Christmas prizegiving on Saturday to celebrate another successful paddling season.

The club won the Samoa Outrigger Canoe Association (S.O.C.A.) overall club championship, open men’s division and open mixed division, and came second in the open women’s.

Laumei president Jonathan Porter said the club have had three or four great years in a row now.

“For this year, I’m proud to say we’ve increased our numbers by more than 100%, in terms of registration and enrolment.

“We’ve been trying to have a bit more fun off and on the water, I think that really helped this year with the numbers going off the charts.

“I think probably half of our club now are expats.

“It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle for us, and you’ve gotta make it as fun as possible off the water, while also enjoying the water.

“It’s not a professional sport, so you need a reason to enjoy it.”

He said the aim next year is for the open women’s team to be as consistent as the men.

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“Most people think that it’s a man’s sport.

“Amanda Wheatley, she’s currently fifth in the world and her partner Andy, they’re part of the club and have been assisting us in building numbers, especially for the women’s team.”

On the men’s side, Porter said it’s time to start looking for international opportunities.

“I think the competition for us is not local, but to aim to compete more on the world stage.”

He said they want to send teams to regional events like the New Zealand Waka Ama nationals, Australian nationals, Cook Islands Vaka Eiva, and Hawaii’s Molokai Hoe, the world’s most prestigious event.

“It all comes down to financing.

“We’re aiming for the Pacific Games, and then god willing if there is funding we’ll send that team to the World Long Distance Championships in Australia in August, then the World Sprints in 2020.

“Off the back of the Games, with the equipment that’s coming in, hopefully our club or the association is strong enough to build and event here locally, and entice the overseas paddlers to come to us.”

S.O.C.A.’s teams for the Games have been in training for three months now.

“The Association has listed criteria you have to meet to qualify for the national team,” Porter said.

“Our whole men’s team is in the squad, and a few of the girls as well.”

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