A MAN who loves where he is in life and also loves his work.
After dropping out of school, Afatariki Waqabaca set his sights on being qualified in the area his interest was in.
The quest to become someone saw him moving from one place to another, and finally to where he is now working. And enjoying himself, and immensely too while he is at it.
The 31-year-old was born in Waciwaci Village on Lakeba Island in Lau and was raised by his grandparents for seven years.
Fondly known as Riki, he grew up in a family of three brothers and three sisters and while growing up, he observed how important it was to earn respect in life.
Riki was at the wheel of the Adrenalin and responsible for taking The Fiji Times crew to the Malolo waters, off Tavarua Island, and back.
The location was near Cloudbreak where the annual international surfing championship was held, attracting world-renowned surfers.
As we left Port Denarau in Nadi, Riki asked if we were okay and he sped off into the calm waters.
On the way back later that afternoon, the young captain talked about his life's journey so far and how he ended up being a boat captain.
"Being mentored by my grandfather, the challenge was to achieve the best to make my family proud," he said.
"After dropping out of school, I moved from my village to Savusavu and stayed with my sister to learn automotive engineering. I had my heart in engines after I left school and that was the beginning of my career.
"When I couldn't find a spot at Savusavu Secondary School to learn automotive engineering, a friend introduced me to a garage where he worked."
Riki said he learnt a lot of things after joining the garage and he was paid $10 a week and his wages were increased to $15 after three weeks.
He later moved back to Suva and then to the then Fiji Institute of Technology campus in Ba to learn panel beating.
When it was time for him to look for a job to earn money for further studies, he started driving a minibus, making trips between Suva and Lautoka via the Queens Rd.
The youngster later enrolled at the CATD in Nadave and graduated as a motor vehicle mechanic, qualifying in repairing outboard engines, fabrication and sheet metal works, blacksmithing, solar lighting and wiring among other things.
After qualifying as a mechanic, Riki went back to the Lau Group to teach automotive engineering to people in the rural communities.
Riki however felt he was too young to teach, so he moved back to Suva for further studies and later got his first real job on Navini Island Resort.
"I worked as a mechanical assistant before the Marine Department introduced a position for boat crewing — a career change that is now a work that I love," he said.
"Water sports related to all I did when I was a kid, swimming off the village's white sandy beach and playing with sand."
Riki also worked for Likuliku Lagoon Resort after leaving Navini Island Resort and he managed to make his way up to a leadership position, supervising the marine and activities department.
He is now employed by Starwood, a water sports company based at the Sheraton Fiji Resort, providing marine activities like jet skiing, boat cruises, island transfers, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving and surf trips.
"We make sure that we offer the best, safe, fun and enjoyable trips for our guests. Working in the tourism industry is something that I'm proud to do nowadays.
"My career is great and I just love what I do. It's not only for my family but for my employer and the country as a whole."
Riki said people who were employed and those seeking jobs should focus on their three strengths — knowledge, skills and attitude.
He captains a twin-hulled aluminium boat powered by two 225 horsepower engines, a vessel he says he loves.
"It's in most people's dreams to go out to the islands, travelling over clear blue waters, having a swim or sitting on a white beach, but I do it every day.
"I have never left the country but I meet the world here in Fiji every day. I have travelled the world through pictures taken by tourists."
Riki is married with two sons and his wife hails from Ba. He lost a 20-month-old son who had heart problems. He is proud to have a happy family.
"Kids are amazing. Their value is something money cannot buy. Their smiles, how they hug you, their first turn, first step are all blessings for all that you do honestly for others," he said.