Bringing traditions of Cook Islands canoe making to Pacific Beach
Published - 04/11/19 - 08:03 AM | 1767 views | 3 3 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jassen Olson, of Pacific Beach, works on his Vaka canoe.
Jassen Olson, of Pacific Beach, works on his Vaka canoe.
slideshow
Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, a nation of 15 islands in the central South Pacific. Volcanic peaks, ridges and rainforest dominate its interior.

For centuries, the only way to travel from island to island was by hand built canoes called Vaka. It seems that every time man makes advancement in technology an old tradition dies. However, in Rarotoga, there is still one family who produces hand made canoes carved from trees just like their forefathers.

Jassen Olsen, of Pacific Beach, traveled with his wife Julie this past winter to the Cook Island on vacation. During his trip there, he came across Auntie and Uncle Tavioni, master Polynesian fabricators of wooden canoes. “We make canoes just like our grandparents did” said Auntie.

Olsen, an outdoor enthusiast who has kayaked all over the world, asked if he could be shown this tradition and would they help him build his own canoe. After some family discussion they agreed. Olsen has been in Rarotonga ever since.

The six-week process included selecting the right tree. “You just don’t cut any tree down you need to be able to see the finished product in your mind’s eye even before you cut the tree. Some trees just don’t have what it takes to become a Vakas and those trees should be left alone. I’ve learned that as much as it’s a skill to use the tools to make a Vaka, it’s also an art,” Olsen said. 

Olsen’s Vaka will leave Rarogtonga on April 20. It will be displayed at the 25th annual San Diego Pacific Islander Festival Sept. 21-22. “I’m excited to show Pacific Beach the old world crafts of this Vaka with other paddler enthusiast,” Olsen said.

“I would encourage anyone if they are looking for a truly culturally enriched experience and to consider traveling to the Cook Islands. Never have I experienced such hospitable people who are eager to share their culture and knowledge of their crafts.”

Comments
(3)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jassen Olsen
|
April 12, 2019
has "Kayaked all over the world" not "Kayaks all over the World"; Makes it seem like I own kayaks all over the world. Article needs editing; but I'm super stoked!
Jassen Olsen
|
April 12, 2019
Olsen not Olson

Hand made not "Had Made"

Meitaki Ma 'ata for publishing!
Mosman Tessa Gelling
|
April 12, 2019
The article should have been proofread before publication; unfortunately It wasn't, nevertheless your Vaka looks and will be stupendous.
Comments are back! Simply post the comment (it'll complain about you failing the human test) then simply click on the captcha and then click "Post Comment" again. Comments are also welcome on our Facebook page.
Trending