There is a festival atmosphere in town today. The community center is filled with plants and flowers, and artisans displaying their skills. There’s live music on the beach and out on the water outrigger canoes are racing ocean-ward. The calls of the paddlers are loud and joyful—and the energy behind each paddle stroke is awesome
I asked a few people what the day was about—but my French wasn’t up to the task of deciphering the mixed French-Marquesan answers. So instead we wandered around—looking at the canoes, communicating in smiles and hand gestures.
Outrigger canoe racing is the official sport of French Polynesia. And clearly, by the numbers of people participating, its popularity rivals that of hockey in Canada. The impossible skinny canoes (which occasionally are forced to fit some, umm, large paddlers), voyage out of the harbour and into the open ocean swells before they return to music, flower garlands and cheers.
I guess a race is a race, in any language. And a party is a party.