Rookies compete in nationals
Rookie paddlers will be lining up next to some experienced competitors at waka ama nationals this week.
The Dilworth School team takes to the water in the mixed division with Epsom Girls Grammar School on Rotorua’s Blue Lake.
It is the first year Dilworth has offered the sport and some of the paddlers have only been in a waka a handful of times. But that doesn’t make them any less keen.
Teacher Michael Butler came to Dilworth in 2013 and suggested the school try waka ama. Interest has been so overwhelming that the school had to limit the crews to just 24 paddlers.
‘‘It just seemed like a sport that would suit them. There’s a lot of Polynesian and Maori students there. There was just so much interest.’’
The Epsom Girls team are wellknown for their waka ama prowess and working with them has been beneficial for the young paddlers.
‘‘They love the paddling and being an absolute team. If you don’t work together you just fall apart. These boys from boarding together are already so close they call themselves brothers. When they get into the waka it just works really well.’’
A record number of paddlers are taking part in the nationals this week with more than 1500 students from 95 schools expected to line up in various boat classes.
Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive Lara Collins says the competition is one of the largest secondary school sports events in New Zealand.
‘‘We’ve made huge strides these past 13 years to take waka ama into as many schools as possible.
‘‘Each year we get more schools taking the sport up and, for the very first time since the Christchurch earthquake, we’ll have schools from the South Island competing at these championships.’’
Strong strokes: The Dilworth School waka ama team competes at nationals for the first time this year. Logan Rahiri, Lennox Benjamin, Shem Setu, Reeve Phillips, Ivan Faddy and captain Hiwa Hopa paddle for Dilworth.
Go to centralleader.co.nz to see a video of the 2013 waka ama nationals.