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At the December 2009 Board of Directors’ Meeting in London, the ICF welcomed Va’a as an official ICF discipline. Not only is this sport a welcome feature due to its universality and popularity in the Pacific nations widening the reach of the ICF, Va’a is also a welcome addition due to its predisposition to Paracanoe.
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.
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
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. Today, Va’a plays an important part of the ICF’s Paracanoe plan and for the first time in 2009, Va’a was a category at the Canoe Sprint World Championships where Paracanoe held its inaugural demonstration event. With ever-tightening cooperation between the International Va’a Federation and the ICF, Va’a is set to be a consistent feature in the Canoe Sprint programme.