Vaka Eiva - Competitive paddling at the highest level
Rarotonga, the spectacular & picturesque capital of the Cook Islands, is home to the Vaka Eiva Paddling Festival, which is held annually in November. The festival consists of a week of exciting competition between some of the sports finest paddlers - a week of experiencing the unique & vibrant Cook Islands Culture - a week of enjoying secluded beaches, shopping art and crafts, visiting local restaurants and island nightlife.
Since the inaugural festival in 2004 Vaka Eiva has grown to become the largest annual sporting event in the Cook Islands and an established event on the international paddling calendar. Combining the spectacle of competitive paddling at the highest level with more laid-back "fun in the sun" events served up with the inimitable Cook Islands hospitality means a paddling festival with something for everyone.
We Cook Islanders are a friendly and hospitable Polynesian people who love to share our island home with our visitors who can enjoy a wide range of activities, soak up some culture, or simply find a shady spot at the beach with a good book to read.
In 2010 the festival produced a record number of entrants - over 100 teams, 800 paddlers & of course many supporters. Every year teams from all around the pacific – Aoteoroa, Australia, Tahiti and Hawaii – come to compete in the many paddling events - the OC1 & V6 Avana Iron Challenge, the Sprints at stunning Muri Lagoon together with some fun, games and the world famous 'pop the ama' competition, Junior 10km and 15km races, the headline acts - the Women's Round Raro "Pacific Paddle" relay race and the Men's Round Raro 'Pacific Cup' relay race.
Akateni i te Vaka
The traditional canoe carving festival is part of our cultural preservation - for understanding the wood, taking care of the trees, techniques and skills of carving and teaching the use of the vaka for fishing and paddling. Taunga Tarai (master carvers) are invited from all over the Cook Islands to share their skills and knowledge. The canoe carving festival will is held next to Avarua Wharf.
Punanga Nui Night Market
A special Night Market is held for our visiting paddlers and supporters and a wonderful opportunity to sample some local and international foods and another way to see and experience Cook Islands art, craft and culture.
Vaka Art Exhibition
Established as one of the highlights of the week, this annual exhibition is a must see. There are some hand carved paddles as well as paddles that our local artists and craftspeople add their own personal touch, design and interpretation. The exhibition also has paintings, prints and hand painted fabrics with the theme of the ocean.
Vaka Eiva Trade Day
Since 2010, in conjunction with BTIB (Business and Trade Investment Board), the festival launched their Vaka Eiva Trade Day which is a wonderful opportunity for Cook Islanders to showcase their locally made authentic products. This is a means of generating an income for our outer island people who, because of their remoteness, can find it difficult to show their wares to our visitors.
After an action packed week in Rarotonga, head to beautiful Aitutaki! The Aitutakian padders put on a special race - Motu 2 Motu. It is unlikely that you will find a more stunning location to paddle anywhere in the world and the Aitutakians are the most wonderful hosts - need we say more?
This has to be one of the best times to visit the Cook Islands - so much more than paddling.
Article and photos by Victoria Dearlove, Event Coordinator, www.thevakaeiva.com