Over 1600 Waka Ama teams from 68 clubs are set to compete at the 28th annual Te Wānanga o Aotearoa National Sprint Championships on Lake Karāpiro this week.
Races kick off today and organisers say the popularity of the sport continues to grow rapidly.
Waka Ama New Zealand CEO, Lara Collins says the inclusive nature of the sport brings together paddlers of all ages and ethnicities.
“It’s a sport for all sorts of people from all walks of life. This year 2150 of the paddlers are under the age of 19 and 1180 of those are aged under 13. Waka Ama is probably the only sport where grandmothers, grandfathers, mums, dads and their kids can come together to race competitively,” says Collin.
Waka Ama paddlers race over distances including 500m, 1500m and marathon races of 30km-75km.
At the sprint championships, clubs will compete for national honours in one, six and 12-paddler teams over distances of 250m, 500m, 1000m and 1500m.
Last year’s winner of the 2016 National Waka Ama club points’ trophy for overall performances was Horouta Waka Hoe from Gisborne. The club will be back this year with the goal of maintaining the title which they have won 5 times in the trophy’s 6-year history.
Some of the races will be live streamed at maoritelevision.com