So, who is Alan then?

Friday November 22, 2019 Written by Published in Paddling
Shannon and Alan Stirling. 19112112 Shannon and Alan Stirling. 19112112

Their name may stick in your throat – but Cook Islanders will embrace the heartfelt passion behind this visiting international vaka crew.


WTFIA stands for Who The F Is Alan. The language may be strong, but it’s meant with love.

Team captain Steve Tomoana says they are a mixed crew of paddling friends from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States who all met here at previous Vaka Eivas.

In their group were Shannon and Alan Stirling, from Canada. On Alan’s first trip to the Cook Islands, Shannon had just introduced her husband to outrigger paddling and this was his first major paddling event.

“Alan also couldn’t swim so he paddled with a life jacket on,” Tomoana says. “Most of us wondered how we got to be paddling in a crew with Alan?”

So, when they were last in Raro, they wrote a song based on the band Dr Hook’s classic, ‘Living Next Door to Alice’. They called it, 'Paddling in a crew with Alan, Alan, who the f is Alan?'

“It made us all laugh and we sung it everywhere.”

Alan and Shannon were to paddle with the team this week – but sadly, Alan got cancer and died earlier this year.

“His wife Shannon is still coming and in honour of Alan, we named our team the WTFIA crew.”

Alan had been looking forward to the 2019 Vaka Eiva festival. “Alan lived an amazing life, was a great character, good cook, creative and a host of other things,” Tomoana says.

“Shannon, his lovely wife and partner, got to share some of that with him as did we all.

Alan had a business designing and building koi fish ponds and water features. The koi on the back of the crew’s shirts is his business logo.

“When people ask you what WTFIA means, you can tell this little story in memory of our friend Alan.”

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