Va’a Through the Ages

Va’a boats have been travelling the Pacific Ocean for more than 4,000 years. Ancient Polynesians and their ancestors moved across the Pacific Islands in single and double hull Va’a and settled on remote islands. These canoes were often sailing vessels and could be much larger than today’s racing V6. When the first Europeans arrived in Polynesia, they recorded sailing Va’as of up to 30m in length, which were designed for long ocean voyages.

The modern Va’a sport spread around most of the Polynesian, Mirconesian and Melanesian Islands, but it also moved to Australia, USA, Canada, South America and Asia and finally to Europe. 

Va’a as the sport we see today was developed in Tahiti and Hawaii. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Va’a races became a regular feature during the traditional cultural “Heiva” festival in Tahiti. In Hawaii, Va’a racing began to emerge at the turn of the 20th Century. Clubs like Hui Nalu and the Outrigger Canoe Club were both founded in 1908 and both still thrive today.

Va’a and the ICF

At the December 2009 board of directors’ meeting in London, the ICF welcomed Va’a as a recognised ICF discipline through a partnership with the International Va'a Federation. This discipline is a welcome feature with its universality and popularity in the Pacific nations, which will also widen the reach of the ICF. Va’a is also a welcome addition due to its predisposition to Paracanoe.

For the first time in 2009, Va’a was a category at the canoe sprint world championships where paracanoe held its inaugural demonstration event.

Today, Va’a plays an important part of the ICF’s paracanoe plan, with the discipline set to make it's Paralympic debut with three events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.