Waka ama sprint nationals at Karapiro to be biggest yet
The 30th annual Waka Ama Sprint Championships on Lake Kara¯ piro this week have a record number of paddlers signing up to compete.
The first Te Wa¯nanga o Aotearoa National Waka Ama Sprint Championships were held in 1990 at Lake Kara¯piro when there were 17 clubs and 43 teams taking part.
This year more than 1700 teams from 61 clubs will race for the national sprint titles in their waka ama (outrigger canoes).
Of those 61 clubs, seven of them are from the Rotorua and surrounding areas.
Ruamata Waka Ama club teams Mako and Ngaruroa will be defending their titles in Master Women and Senior Master Women divisions.
More than 3000 paddlers from throughout the country are scheduled to line up in various waka classes, competing in 10 age divisions at the event from January 14 to 19.
Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive Lara Collins said that this year’s event promises to be full of excitement.
“In 2014 we had 2562 competitors, this year we have a record 3577 paddlers registered, we’ve grown 39.6 per cent in five years.”
Collins said crews from all over the country would be competing in front of an expected crowd of 10,000.
She said waka ama was a sport like no other because of the inclusive nature, that brought together paddlers of all ages and ethnicities.
The youngest paddler in the competition this year is 5 and the oldest will turn 82 this year. “Waka ama may be the only sport where grandmothers, grandfathers, mums, dads and their kids can come together to race competitively.
“That’s what makes it so special and unique, it’s very competitive but the focus is on fun and wha¯nau, too.”
A Ma¯ ori public health organisation, Ha¯pai Te Hauora, congratulated Waka Ama New Zealand for its commitment to Ma¯ori wellbeing during the national championship festival.
This will be its sixth year as a “fizzfree” event, meaning no fizzy drinks will be sold at the tournament.
General manager Janell DymusKurei said the event was a great example of leadership in Ma¯ ori health and a positive “pro-Ma¯ori” event.
“Organisers have shown a strong commitment to oranga tinana through the promotion of physical activity which is embedded in te ao Ma¯ori.”
She said through the adoption of a “fizz-free” stance the festival highlighted the importance of the availability of water, wai Ma¯ori, to all wha¯nau across the motu.
Paddlers at a secondary school waka ama competition last year.