Malibu to welcome seafaring Polynesian voyagers

Local Kauai supporters set the anchor of the Haunui, a Pan-Pacific canoe, which was the first of seven voyaging canoes to arrive in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii, on July 6. The seven canoes will arrive in Malibu on Friday. Photo by Roxanne McCann

A group of Pacific Islanders sailing across the Pacific ocean in seven vakas, or ocean-voyaging canoes, will visit Malibu’s Paradise Cove Aug. 19-21. The Wishtoyo Foundation is hosting a welcoming ceremony at the beach Friday at 2 p.m.

Through this journey, the group, known as the Pacific Voyagers, are combining long-standing sailing traditions with a message of modern environmentalism, emphasizing stewardship of the earth, particularly in protecting the oceans.

“We are voyaging to strengthen our ties with the sea, renew our commitment to healthy ecosystems for future generations and to honor our ancestors who have sailed before us,” the group’s Web site states.

The welcoming ceremony in Malibu will consist of tribal protocols conducted by representatives from throughout the Chumash community along with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Malibu Mayor John Sibert. Some tribal protocols include traditional Chumash canoes, called tomols, that will sail into the cove to receive the vakas ceremoniously. Additionally, the Wishtoyo Foundation will host a barbecue for the crew at its 8,000-year-old Chumash Village.

“They are bringing a very profound environmental message to the world with this voyage,” Wishtoyo Foundation cultural resources and Education Director Luhui Isha Waiya said. “[We want] to host them, to welcome them, and to thank them for bringing this very important message to the world.”

Malibu resident and photographer Roxanne McCann covered the voyagers during their time in Hawaii for a local newspaper. She explained the significance of the journey in terms of its connection to tradition. “It is difficult to express the importance of this to the island cultures in the Polynesian triangle,” McCann wrote in an e-mail to The Malibu Times. “In Hana-lei the entire community came out to host them for many days.”

Malibu residents Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith, who have a home in Hawaii, were also present at the sailors’ welcoming ceremony in Kauai.

The Pacific Voyagers have been traveling in seven vaka moanas, or sailing canoes, throughout their trip. Ocean conservation group Okeanos, Foundation for the Sea, built the vakas with the help of traditional Polynesian practices. The boats were built using both traditional and modern methods and materials.

“We followed our ancestors’ design, but incorporated more sustainable materials to lessen the impact on our environment,” the Pacific Voyagers’ Web site states.

The practice of Pacific voyaging began thousands of years ago when travelers set sail in vaka moanas from Asia in hopes of discovering new lands. Then, the voyagers used only the sun, stars, wind and other natural elements to guide them.

The idea for this particular journey began when Dieter Paulmann, founder of Okeanos, Foundation for the Sea, wanted to make a film about ocean conservation. Paulmann visited the Festival of the Pacific Arts in American Samoa in 2008 and was inspired by a vaka from the Cook Islands. He then met Nainoa Thompson, a master-navigator from Hawaii, and his mentor, Micronesian master-navigator Papa Mau Piailug, and the plans for the trip were set in motion.

A documentary, “Our Blue Canoe,” chronicles the journey of the Pacific Voyagers, following the group along their 20,000-mile trip, and will be released in 2013.

The travelers began their journey in Auckland, New Zealand on April 19. They then made their way north, stopping in French Polynesia and Hawaii before arriving in San Francisco Aug. 2, staying in each place from a few days to a few weeks. After sailing down the California coast, the voyagers will make their stop in Malibu this Friday.

After their visit to Malibu, the Pacific Voyagers will travel to San Diego where they will remain for a winter break. They are scheduled to resume their journey in January, sailing to Baja California, the Galapagos Islands and Tahiti before concluding at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands.

More information can be obtained by visiting the travelers’ Web site at