MEET: Tilali Scanlan

Feb 9, 2019Meet, Photography

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell.
If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!


Competitive swimmer and national athlete representing American Samoa. This Vaitogi girl shares her passion for the ocean, goals, favorite spots, and a dose of inspiration for young Pacific athletes.

Tell me about yourself, where you live, and what do you do?

I was born and raised in Vaitogi, American Samoa as number 7 of 8 kids. I am a national athlete of American Samoa, my main sport is competitive swimming. I was homeschooled until college basically, and now I am in my 3rd year of university studying Marine Science/Biology at USP in Fiji.

How did you get started in swimming competitively?

My mom put my siblings and I into a bunch of sports when we were young to burn off our energy and get us out of the house. I did a lot of sports, but swimming was my favorite. I really got into competitive swimming when I realised the potential I had, and how much fun it was!

Growing up, where were your favorite places to swim?

I swam at the tide pools in Vaitogi almost every day in homeschooling, so that was a favorite spot of mine. I loved going to Maliu Mai, and on rare occasions, beaches on the far ends of the island with the family. Nothing tops swimming in Manu’a though, that’s an all time favorite!

You’re so young and have traveled a lot; where have you been and how did you get to travel so often?

Just for swim comps, I’ve gone to New Caledonia, Samoa, NZ, PNG, Canada, Hawaii, Budapest, Austria, and most recently China (gettin that passport stamped!!)

I come from such a tiny dot on the map, yet have seen so much in my young years, and I’m thankful to sports for that. Swimming has taken me places my bank account could neva.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Train. School. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Typically a 5 am start to a 9pm rest (depending on if I get my schoolwork done in time). It gets busier when school deadlines get closer, but I always try to set aside Saturday night to chill and do whatever I want.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Motivated. Curious. Hungry (aaaalwayyys hungry).

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Back in AS, training young swimmers to pursue the sport, and have opportunities like I have had. 10 years? Somewhere in the islands, doing the same thing, and protecting the oceans! I can definitely see myself somewhere in the water haha.

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

Toughest question yet. BRB gotta make a comparison chart. Definitely high up on the food chain.

What are your passions?

I’m passionate about the water (big surprise there), and becoming so connected with it, that it feels unnatural to leave its medium. I’m also passionate about encouraging young people from small islands like ours to pursue more options. There’s something for everyone.

Why do you care so much for the environment?

I could write you a thesis paper on why, and a whole lot of other good reasons lol. Bottom line is that life is codependent on the environment, and it pains me to see it suffer.

Favorite kind of music?

A LOT, but I can listen to island songs anytime, anyday. Ben Vai is one of my favorite artists from home.

Favorite food?


What is your life motto?

“Eat pasta swim fasta”

What’s your spirit animal?

Sloths. They avoid so much trouble by taking naps.

What is your all time favorite spot in American Samoa?

The spot right where Ofu and Olosega meet. Just hanging out under the bridge with my nieces and nephews. Nothing beats that.

Any advice for young aspiring pacific athletes?

Never let where you come from determine how far you will go.

Model and interview by Tilali Scanlan. Questions and photos by Nerelle.

Want to follow Tilali into the blue? Check out this arvo surf sesh!

Also follow Tilali’s adventures on instagram: @tilalipops


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