Guam Cultural Group Constructs 2 Traditional Canoes

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‘Flying proas,’ additional vessels to take part in 2016 arts festival

By Katrina Palanca

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 20, 2012) – Members of Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry, or TASA, recently completed the construction of two flying proas, traditional canoes -- the Ayuyu and the Hurao.

TASA's goal is to preserve, protect and perpetuate the traditional Chamorro seafaring culture of the Marianas.

Made of local breadfruit trees, the 17-foot long Ayuyu has a slim design and capacity for high speed. The Hurao is a 20-foot vessel made of redwood planks, left over from the Saina construction in 2008.

In 2008, the seafaring group Traditions About Seafaring Islands, or TASI, built the Saina. One year later, the 33-foot traditional "sakman" canoe participated in Guam's first traditional voyage to Rota in 200 years.

"These canoes are not just placed in a museum for display," said Ron Acfalle, president of TASA. "It's actually used for sailing."

In comparison to the Saina, which was a hybrid of Carolinian and Chamorro designs, the Hurao and the Ayuyu remain true to traditional Chamorro models, said TASA treasurer Jose Martinez.

TASA based the construction of the canoes on a 1748 sketch by Baron George Anson. The group takes the sea vessels out on training runs off the Tumon coast and tweaks the canoe design as needed.

The cultural organization is made up of about 25 members, many of whom are high-school-age youths, said Acfalle.

"The 16-to-18-year-olds are taught how to sail, but we have kids as young as 8 years old coming out and taking a ride in the canoe," he added.

In addition to preparing for their debut in the Liberation Day parade, TASA is anticipating the Festival of Pacific Arts, which Guam will host in 2016.

"We plan to build bigger and better canoes for FestPac," Acfalle said. "We would love to see Tumon Bay filled with vessels from around the Pacific region, and we would like to take the lead in that effort."

The group hopes to gain the support and help of the community, government and private sector. To gain exposure, the group features its flying proas in cultural shows and school presentations.

"The proas are ambassadors themselves," Martinez said. "They bring stories of ancient navigation to life."

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