The CNMI paddling community came out in full force for the traditional Carolinian blessing of the six canoes that the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 organizing committee donated to the Northern Marianas National Paddle Sports Federation.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres led the ceremony that saw the attendance of master navigators Tony Piailug and Cecilio Raiukiulipiy and other seafarers last Friday at Kilili Beach.
“Congratulations and with the Mini Games coming up next year, we couldn’t be prouder than you guys representing us. So when you go out there have fun and work hard and wave our flag,” said Torres.
Mini Games organizing committee CEO Vicente “Ben” Babauta also congratulated the umbrella organization of all paddling clubs in the CNMI for the acquisition of the six new canoes and even challenged them to win the gold medal in home soil in next year’s quadrennial event.
“It’s quite exciting because we’re also bringing in the topnotch paddlers from Tahiti, New Caledonia, Fiji…but we’re going to get the gold next year, right?” he asked the national paddling team hopefuls.
What he got was a resounding “yeah!” from the over 30 NMNPSF members trying out for the national team.
NMNPSF president Justin Andrew thanked Torres, Babauta, and the Mini Games organizing committee for the turnover of the brand new canoes.
“I think the blessing brings all the special features of having brand new canoes here in the CNMI. It has been a culmination of the hard work, teamwork, and dedication to manufacture the canoes and bring them here. More is coming but we’re very appreciative and thankful for everyone who were able to make time to come out today and witness the blessings of the six new canoes,” he said.
Andrew added that the blessing ceremony is a Pacific-wide tradition but find its roots in Carolinian culture.
“That’s why we brought in two of our master navigators and seafaring people who are knowledgeable about the whole culture of the ocean,” he said.
Aside from Andrew, other NMNPSF board member that witnessed the blessing ceremony were NMNPSF treasurer and Marianas Canoe Club treasurer Jose Quan, NMNPSF vice president and Marianas Canoe Club president Tim Asaivao, NMNPSF secretary and Marianas Pacific Paddlers member TaAnn Kabua-Demapan, and NMNPSF race director and Napu Outrigger Canoe Club vice president/head coach Jason Tarkong.
In all, the Mini Games organizing committee for next year’s quadrennial event ordered 36 outrigger canoes—18 of the V6 type and 18 of the V1 type for single paddlers.