Homegrown success for local canoe builder
The ocean signifies the journey of all Pacific Islanders.
For the son of Samoa, Jay Ah Fook Schuster, to bring that history to life makes him very proud.
For 35 years the owner of Fausaga Vaa Samoa dreamt of the day they would be able to manufacture canoes in Samoa for all the paddlers and to help young people to understand their roots, on how migration was in the past.
Fausaga Vaa Samoa is the first and only company in Samoa that fabricates canoes. They won the bid to manufacture 16 single canoes for the Pacific Games 2019.
There have been obstacles along the way to achieving the dream and it took some drifts and turns. But Fausaga Vaa Samoa is grateful for how far they have come.
“We are just proud and happy. It’s not just the last two months – it’s been 35 years in the making and we’re moving forward with all 16 canoes ready, a month ahead of schedule,” Jay says.
Jay Schuster and Alex Mikaele from the Pacific Games operations team.
“The biggest risk for us and the sport is belief, having people believing what this sport stands for and having people believe in what we are trying to do. We’re just really proud that we are at this stage to get people on board and understand what we are trying to do.
“It’s a really proud moment to achieve that for all of us and all the paddlers that are out there, it’s been a struggle for them. It’s a lost culture that people have forgotten,” he continues.
“We’re slowly breaking down those walls and getting through and it all comes from a lot of us coming together putting aside what the challenges to make it happen.”
One of the issues in the past has been having the necessary equipment to manufacture canoes in Samoa. Having his partner, Tuiloma Papu Williams, the man behind the making of the canoes, on board is a bonus for him. They’d looked at trying to setup the program, before. Lack of equipment was the obstacle.
“Solving that means we’re finally able to build boats, to get it accepted in our country and in the Pacific Games.”
Sport Competition Manager for Vaa, Andy Wheatley, is positive that Jay and his team have met all the criteria that were expected from the Fausaga Vaa.
Jay and Tasi Schuster with Sport Competition Manager for Vaa, Andy Wheatley and Alex.
“These guys have done an amazing job. Jay was the first on board when we started with this tender process. He’s ticked all the boxes and they’ve gone above and beyond - with the build quality and with their time. It’s been amazing,” he says.
“The first piece of the puzzle is completed and it makes the games real for everyone. It’s been a big challenge to get here…a good challenge. It’s just really exciting that we have got our boats done.”
To have the best canoes and to meet the international standard was the focus and drive of the Fausaga Vaa Samoa.
“The athletes can expect international standard equipment, top of the line stuff for the Games, not the cheapest. We went on design and providing the athletes with the best equipment we can. These guys train for four years for the Pacific Games. There’s no point them turning up and giving them a boat that we bought on price,” says Jay.
“We went for full international standard. We wanted boats that we could handle flat water and the ocean. They are going to expect the best equipment and just a really good Games.”