What’s a va’a?
Te va’a means the outrigger canoe. The va’a is a sharp (a paddler width) polynesian canoe, linked to a lateral beam with 2 wooden arms. Rubber straps (strong and flexible) make the link. The rower has a simple paddle. Le beam is for stability and is really Pacific islands’ typical.
Originally, polynesian canoes were wooden carved and a symbol of belonging to an island. Nowadays, they are made of composites. Different sorts of va’a : V1, individual, 7 meters long / V3, for 3, around 11 meters long / V6, for 6, around 13 meters long / V12, 2 twinned V6 va’as. All have Lagoon or open sea shapes.
From Pacific conquest to cultural symbol. First va’as were aimed at discovering unknown horizons and nearby islands. During the 19th century, with europeans arrival, big
canoes become scarce. Polynesians use only short ones to go fishing in the lagoon.
In Tahiti, every July 14th, va’as parade and race. In 1950, va’a races develop.
Around 1976, this sport comes popular again especially thanks to the hawaiian experimentation to relive Pacific migrations with a 19 meters long double canoe (Hokule’a). This is a success : 5370 kms in 32 days with no instruments. This va’a polynesians’ reclaim is a tribute to their ancestors’ marine conquest and their identity reconquest. In 1992, the great race Hawaiki Nui (original great land) directly
refers to this return to the roots.
The va’a naturally becomes French Polynesia symbol and is represented on its national flag.