Topic: Waka Ama

NZ Elite squad chosen to head to Waka Ama Worlds in May

By Te Kāea
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

While making the finals and getting the gold is at the forefront of every paddlers' mind at the Waka Ama Nationals at Karāpiro, some of the paddlers are also trying to make the New Zealand elite team which will head across to the Worlds in May in Australia.

For the first time, New Zealand elite teams will be named tomorrow after the final race of the nationals. The teams will be a part of the new competition at the Worlds this year where they go head-to-head against the best in the world but it doesn't come without some challenges.

While the paddlers are giving it their all on the water, New Zealand's Elite Open Men's coach Maika Nuku is sweating off the water with some tough decisions to make.

Nuku says, "Firstly I've got to select the paddlers, that's the hardest part. Five months these guys have been training hard on the water and in the gym to show off their skills and how strong they are."

Close to 30 of the best paddlers throughout the country are gunning for selection in the open men's elite team, but only 13 will be successful. 

Brad Anderson (Ngāpuhi) says, "We have had three camps.  We come together for a couple of days. It's been awesome just smashing each other, whether or not that's enough to get us over the line, only time will tell.
Mike's got a tough job, he's got a good pool of boys to select from, but I think he's got his work cut out for him to pick."

Bringing the top paddlers from around the country together is also a challenge in itself for both men and women's teams.

Women's coach, Kiwi Campbell says, "Everybody is all over the country and we're not fully funded as well so that's a barrier for us.  We have to do raffles and any kind of fundraising because you want to make sure you get the blend right and the team is moving the waka as quickly as possible."

Anderson adds, "Within the teams and squad itself everyone paddles differently, like Nga Hoe Horo have got their own stoke, Manukau got theirs, the Coast has theirs.  So, finding something that works for that one team is tough I think we've got to find common ground."

Despite the challenges, both coaches and paddlers are excited by the new format.

Campbell says, "There is a core group of women that have put their hands up, and I've been around the sport a long time and have a good understanding of where they go in terms of the position and how they can make an impact on the team."

"This new format will give our sport respect within the wider sports. It's not just any team but the best paddlers in the country coming together," says Nuku.

Our top paddlers with one goal in mind.

"We're going there to win gold, we'll be probably disappointed with anything less.  We have high expectations for our team, we've got paddlers already in that current squad who have been world champions and know what it takes," explains Campbell.