The man behind Fausaga Va’a
While appearances may suggest otherwise, Tuiloma Papu Williams is a full-blooded Samoan who wants give back to his community by building boats.
Tuiloma Papu Williams spoke of how his company, ‘Fausaga Va’a’ started during the opening of his newly-established company located behind M&J Ah Fook at Matautu Tai last week.
“Today I was trying to figure out what to say about what I hope to accomplish and for me I think this is the best time to let Samoa know who I am,” he said.
“I have been living in Hawaii for over 20 years. I moved there in 1991 and when I got there, va’a was the sport that I noticed was one of the best things happening in Hawaii.
“The reason why I want to explain a little bit about this is because I first experienced constructing va’a’s in Hawaii.
“I found I had a passion for it and it was really good for everyone in my family.
“I made a lot of friends over there and that’s how I got into this trade.
“It was a perfect time for me. There was a palagi who had just started and he was looking for someone to get involved and to help him with the building and so that was the beginning.”
Tuiloma went on to say that even though he was living in Hawaii for a long time, he still kept his ears tuned into what was happening in Samoa.
“My heart was always in Samoa no matter how long I was in Hawaii,” he said.
“[And] I heard that everything was growing around Samoa especially this sport and most of the islanders in the country were not using wooden boats.
“The wooden boats are a thing of the past and nowadays everybody is moving forward to high tech canoes because they are better and take the sport to the next level of competing.
“So after 20 years in Hawaii, in 2011 I came to visit and to see how things are in Samoa and yes when I came, I saw that a lot had changed in Samoa.
“[But] there were certain things that I noticed were a bit behind in the va’a’s and what we were using.
“Potentially there were a lot of people who wanted to get involved but what was happening while I was over here was they were all sitting around on the beach because there were not enough equipment to use.”
The boat builder said because of this, most of the people just went home and were bored.
“I heard a lot of people talking about how much the sport had grown which was very helpful and how it helps a lot of people and nobody can get injured from it,” he said.
“As for running and jogging, it hurts the joints but with paddling, people get two things; not only do they get to enjoy the view out there but they can lose weight at the same time.
“So when I went back I talked to my wife and we decided that it was time for us to move back to Samoa because Samoa needs a lot of help to source the materials and equipment for this sport.
“I am not talking about just for one match or for the V6’s, I am talking about all the boats we have here.
“We even have a problem with fautasi’s too. We don’t even have any more fautasi’s to race because we are scared of the words high tech.
“Now we can improve and get ourselves to the next level of paddling when competing.
“We have to go with what everybody else is using.”
He said that if Samoa wants to take the sport to the next level, then improving boats is the first step.
“If we really want to compete internationally around the world this is the way for us to achieve that because we need to work together and support each other and to make it happen for us,” he said.
“I am here now to help Samoa take us to the next level of paddling and other sports that need these kinds of skills too.
“It was hard in the beginning for me when I came and started looking for people to help me achieve this goal.
“Every time I tried to look and talk to people they give me that look that you can read their minds saying “poo fea ga kaa ai lea pogaua sau fai mai e lelei laga fauvaa” but somehow a lot of people that I asked told me that I should go and see someone who is involved in the sport and is passionate about it.
So I had to go find Ulugia Jay Ah Fook.
“I went, and when I saw this man, he gave me the time to talk.
“I also know he was giving me the same look that everyone else was giving me. But somehow he gave me the chance to work with him to try and make this trade work in Samoa and that’s how Fausaga Va’a started.”
Tuiloma acknowledged the support of Ulugia Jay and Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale and everyone who helped with the project.
“It is because of Ulugia and Tasi Ah Fook who gave me the time, put in the effort and support to help me make this work in Samoa. So I thank them and the patron of Outrigger for giving me the time and putting their trust in me to make this happen.”