Over 2000 paddlers from different walks of life will represent their club at the annual National Waka Ama competition held in Karāpiro.
In its 30th year, the competition continues to grow, especially the Intermediate section with 234 boys competing this year.
One team has been together for only four short months but are touted to be among the best of 2019.
Vaka Soldiers train hard towards the Waka Ama Nationals, on water and on land.
But the intermediate team from Manukau Outrigging Canoe club makes sure that every training counts.
“We had a day off on Christmas but we went back onto the water to train hard again for Nats,” says paddler Vainikolo Vainikolo.
They've been training for four months now, most paddlers are new to the sport. Despite this, they won overall at their regionals and will represent their club at this year’s Nationals.
“We were nervous at the start but we got the hang of it and we started coming first in all our races,” says Vainikolo.
It's going to be a challenging Nationals for the side, with 58 other intermediate teams in their section from around the country.
“At Nationals we want to come first and try and beat Horouta,” says Ross Raheke, “We're going to train hard, extra hard and win.”
Vaka Soldiers will be one of the first teams to compete at this year’s Nationals, which starts in just under two weeks’ time.