The National Sport of French Polynesia

August 25, 2023

French Polynesia, a blissfully beautiful archipelago in the South Pacific, is known for its stunning blue lagoons, vibrant coral reefs, and warm and friendly people. The islands offer a rich cultural heritage, and among its many traditions, the national sport holds a special place in the hearts of the locals.

The Origin of the National Sport

The national sport of French Polynesia is called "Ava Taua," which translates to "Warrior Spear" in the Tahitian language. It is a traditional martial art that traces its roots back to the ancient Polynesian warriors who used it as a training method to develop skills for battles and community defense.

Ava Taua primarily consists of two main components: spear throwing and hand-to-hand combat. These techniques were not only crucial for protection but also served as a means to display strength, courage, and honor among the warriors.

The Modern-Day Ava Taua

Over time, Ava Taua has evolved from a martial art for warfare to a competitive sport that is now celebrated as a symbol of cultural identity and unity. Today, it is practiced by both men and women, and competitions are held across the French Polynesian islands.

In modern-day Ava Taua tournaments, participants showcase their skills in spear throwing, hand-to-hand combat, as well as traditional dance and storytelling. The sport allows both locals and visitors to witness the strength, agility, and grace of the Polynesian warriors, while providing a deeper understanding of the island's rich heritage.

The Unique Techniques and Practices

Ava Taua involves several unique techniques and practices that make it distinct from other martial arts. One of the most striking aspects is the use of the "To'o," a long wooden spear with intricate carvings, as the primary weapon.

The art of spear throwing requires incredible precision and strength. Competitors aim to hit specific targets with accuracy, showcasing their ability to defend their community and engage in long-range combat.

Hand-to-hand combat, also known as "pa'u," focuses on various striking and grappling techniques. Practitioners aim to disarm opponents and gain control with skilled maneuvers handed down through generations.

Additionally, dancers and storytellers contribute to the sport by showcasing their talents, enhancing the overall cultural appeal of Ava Taua.

Preserving Tradition and Upholding Identity

Ava Taua plays a significant role in preserving the culture and traditions of French Polynesia. The sport acts as a gateway to the past, allowing younger generations to connect with their heritage and gain a sense of identity by learning the ancient techniques and practices.

The national sport also attracts tourists from around the world, giving them an opportunity to witness and appreciate the authentic Polynesian culture firsthand. It promotes cultural exchange, mutual respect, and understanding while showcasing the unique skills and beauty of the region.


In a paradise like French Polynesia, where nature's wonders abound, the national sport Ava Taua stands as a testament to the strength, resilience, and pride of its people. Upholding ancient traditions and evolving into a competitive sport, Ava Taua not only showcases the athleticism of its participants but also serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage that defines French Polynesia.

So, the next time you find yourself on the islands, make sure to witness the captivating spectacle of Ava Taua, and immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring legacy of French Polynesia.

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