The country's top waka ama teams have arrived at Lake Karāpiro for Day 1 of the Waka Ama Sprint Nationals. Training for hundreds of paddlers from clubs around the country is over as the first races of the week start.
Organiser Hoturoa Kerr says, “This is the 26th annual competition and it continues to grow with new paddlers each year.”
Over 300 people have gathered for the event today. This is the first time that Ōtaki-based club Hawaiki Nui Tuarua have attended.
Whatumaringi Hapeta says, “Because we're relatively new we are a little concerned, and we are aware of other teams, which could take our focus off the job at hand. Therefore we aim to finish our races well, and if we make it to the finals, well only time can tell.”
Raiha Cook says, “The majority of us are new to waka ama, but we will put our best effort in so that we can proudly say we did paddle at the waka ama nationals.”
It is a week-long competition and over the years the continued participation of Polynesian clubs to this event has increased competition.
“That club from the Cook Islands have come for the last 3-4 years, and over that time we have seen their skills develop and they continue to have members of the club make it to the major finals,” says Kerr.
The kids section started the competition off, and who is to know who will be victorious. Regardless it is clear to see that health and well-being drives this competition which ends on Saturday.