More than paddling vaka

Thursday November 21, 2019 Written by Published in Paddling
Anticipation is mounting as paddlers hit the water for some early training. 19112009/ 19112010 Anticipation is mounting as paddlers hit the water for some early training. 19112009/ 19112010

Every year Vaka Eiva draws hundreds of people to Rarotonga to celebrate Oe Vaka and learn about Cook Islands culture.


Tomorrow, the 16th Vaka Eiva festival kicks off – and already the buzz is growing in downtown Avarua.

Photographer Harvie Allison comes to photograph Vaka Eiva every year.

He still remembers the first Vaka Eiva in 2004, when he paddled his vaka out into the ocean, then steered it back to shore – he recalls the amazing view of the island that captured his heart.

Vaka Eiva has put the Cook Islands on the map, says Allison, and that was one of reasons for beginning the Vaka Eiva races in 2004.

Soon, he says, even paddling legends from Tahiti and Hawaii came together to paddle on Rarotonga’s wavy waters.

“For those who do attend it’s a fabulous event and given the reduced numbers of paddlers worldwide, it great to see the people continuing to come to Rarotonga for the races.”

Allison says it’s not only the incredible venue that attracts so many – it’s the local people who are welcoming, friendly and happy and the Cook Islands culture that always wows visitors.

“The people of the Cook Islands have the best sense of humour,” says Allison.

Local photographer and artist Tokerau Jim has already been out capturing drone images and video of the teams training, like the picture on Cook Islands News’ front page today.

The whole week makes for great photos and videos, which of course promote the Cook Islands, but oe Vaka is also good for the community.

“As we capture these events, we don't just retell those stories but we also take part in contributing towards the preservation and promotion of our culture for generations to come,” Tokerau Jim says.

Cook Islands Tourism destination manager Metua Vaiimene agrees. Vaka Eiva is a signature event of the Cook Islands, and is also a feature on the international paddling calendar. 

“In the past Vaka Eiva has welcomed up to 1300 unique visitors for the event, and continues to welcome hundreds of paddling enthusiasts every year,” he says.

“These events involve visitors which brings economic returns, and local sports codes which benefit too.”

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