Party wraps paddling festival

The paddling community in Samoa wrapped up the Vailima Alopaopao International Paddling Festival 2017 and Le Aito Regatta with a Beach Party at Taumeasina Island Resort. 

Chairperson of Alo Paopao, Ulugia Jay Ah Fook, said the weeklong event was a huge success.

 “We’re really focusing on what to do with culture and also with our kids and youth. Pretty much what we are trying to do is to provide the opportunities for the future; for our kids.

“You know there are a lot of kids here that have that talent but no way to show it so to have an event, they get to come down and show what they can do.”

According to Ulugia, everything from the start of the Alo Paopao event up to the concert held on Saturday night could be all a part of our culture.

“In the Pacific, that’s part of our culture; we sing, we dance, we paddle and we cook and that’s how we live. So the whole event, it’s really about that but more about the paopao because paopao is unique to the Pacific and we want to make sure that we don’t limit it to just the Pacific for our children, we want to grow them to explore the opportunities that the world offers.”

This year for Alo Paopao was definitely a step up.

“We’ve had a lot of people from overseas come over. You know with alo paopao; it’s a worldwide event. It started in the Pacific and now there are people in Russia that paddle and Italy, Morocco etc. and they never used to paddle before and you know they are catching up to the culture that we live in and breathe here in the Pacific and now they’re coming over. 

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“This year we had over 70 paddlers from overseas and they’re talking already about how they’re enjoying the islands so much that they are looking into coming back and our goal is to try annually to get paddlers over here; maybe over a 1000 or at least 500 paddlers every year to come over for this event and that contributes to our economy because these paddlers come here and spend their money here in Samoa. 

“It’s really big and this year before we even finish, they have already booked for next so hopefully next year we’re looking at 200 people from overseas plus our locals.”

Not only that but the level of competition has grown.

“As the exposure grows, the interest grows but we’ve also attracted the interest of overseas countries and one of those is Tahiti. You know our organization is really small and thank you to all our sponsors who have come onboard to make it possible.

The Alo Paopao definitely needs the support of the government. 

“We want to inject this support into our school programme. They do this in New Zealand, they do this in Hawaii and they also do this in New Caledonia, Rarotonga, Tahiti etc. We want to inject this into the school programme so that it becomes what we are and what we always mean; our way of life and what our culture is.

“It’s very expensive to send teams overseas but to bring them here to Samoa, it benefits everybody and you know we would like to send people to overseas but at the moment we’re not at that stage.

“It would be a lot better to bring them over here where everybody benefits. But with this, not only the top paddlers get the experience but also there’s a lot of juniors that are paddlers during the event and they’re learning and in five years time they will be champions and this is my goal.

“I believe that Samoans are the best paddlers in the Pacific, we just need the opportunity.”

Ulugia congratulated all the paddlers. He also acknowledged all their sponsors for making this event possible.

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