Students from The University of Auckland have formed seven mixed men’s and women’s teams to paddle on the Waitemata Harbour and compete in the 6th annual Great Waka Ama race this weekend.
One of the teams, Ngā Tauira Māori, consists of Māori students from all over the country who are representing the university's Māori association.
Team Coordinator of the Ngā Tauira Māori waka ama team, Janell Aroha Dymus says, “I feel like we’ve come together nicely as a team within the past couple of weeks and that we have a good shot at winning the race. We’re all nervously excited, but all we can do now is focus on ourselves and our rōpū.”
Up for grabs will be the ultimate prize in the Waka Ama community, an all-expenses paid trip to Hawai’i to compete in the world’s largest long-distance outrigger canoe competition, the Queen Lili’uokalani Memorial race.
The University of Auckland is the current world title-holder of the main open mixed category of the Queen Lili’uokalani Memorial race. A crew from the Faculty of Engineering beat 10 international teams to win the 30km open-water event in Kona, Hawai’i in 2016.
The winning 2017 crew will go on to complete months of gruelling winter training on the Waitemata Harbour before travelling to Hawai’i in September.
Training is nothing new to the team, having sacrificed time throughout the summer holidays to prepare for the University of Auckland Great Waka Ama race this Saturday.
Dymus says, “We’ve been training through the summer, both on the water and the land. We’ve had amazing experience brought to the team through Papa Māori (Māori Tere) who has coached us through the season, and we’ve seen our fair share of sunrises on the water without early morning paddles. I think whanaungatanga is a key aspect of waka ama and trust in our team mates and that’s built itself in preparation for the race. We know that we have each other’s back.”
The race is no easy feat. Crews will start and finish at Takapuna Beach, paddling five kilometres from Takapuna to Rangitoto Island, run a return eight kilometres to the summit and then paddle back to Takapuna Beach.
The start of the University of Auckland Great Waka Ama race takes place on Saturday 18 March at 10am- weather dependent.