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30th Te Wananga o Aotearoa National Waka Ama Sprint Championships

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Waka Ama continues to grow in popularity with record numbers of paddlers signing up to compete at the 30th annual Te Wānanga o Aotearoa National Waka Ama Sprint Championships on Lake Karāpiro next week - making Waka Ama one of the fastest growing water sports in New Zealand.

The first Waka Ama Sprint Nationals was held in 1990 at Lake Karāpiro, back then there were 17 Clubs and 43 teams took part. This year over 1700 teams from 61 clubs will race for the prestigious national sprint titles in their Waka Ama (outrigger canoes). 3,577 paddlers from throughout the country are scheduled to line up in various waka classes, competing in ten age divisions at the event from January 14-19.

Waka Ama New Zealand CEO, 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% in 5 years. With a female majority of competitors, and 5 time national champion (Tupuria King) going head-to-head with one of Tahiti’s best (Manutea Million) - this year is our biggest yet!"

"We’ve got crews coming from all over the country from as far north as Kaitaia down to Queenstown in the South Island. There are going to be huge crowds lakeside watching the regatta. With around 10,000 expected during the week."

Collins said "Waka Ama is a sport like no other, with its inclusive nature bringing together paddlers of all ages and ethnicities, this year we have majority female competitors in 6 of 10 age divisions.

1,370 paddlers are under 13, and 34 paddlers over 70".

"It’s a sport for all sorts of people from all walks of life. Our youngest paddler competing this week is 5 and our oldest paddler 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 whānau (family), too."

Waka Ama paddlers race over distances including 250m, 500m, 1500m and marathon races of 30km-75km.

The ama (outrigger), on the left-hand side balances the waka or canoe, helping it to slice through the water with every stroke.

At the sprint championships, clubs will compete for national honours in; single, six and 12-paddler teams over distances of 250m, 500m, 1000m and 1500m. Spectators are also in for added excitement as teams competing in the six-paddler 1000m and 1500m classes have to navigate their way through hairpin turns at the 250m mark.

Male and female crews will be competing for national honours in the Midget (under 10) , Intermediate (11-13), Junior U16, Junior U19, Open, Master (40) Senior Master (50) Golden Master (60) and Masters 70 age divisions.

Last year’s winner of the 2018 National Waka Ama club points’ trophy for overall performances throughout the regatta was Horouta Waka Hoe from Gisborne. The club will be back in 2019 seeking to defend its title, one they have won 7 times in the trophy’s 8 year history!

The Winners of the 2018 Ace Cuthers Memorial Club Spirit Trophy Winners - Te Rau Ōranga o Ngāti Kahungunu Waka Ama Club will travel back to Karāpiro with the prestigious trophy that will again be awarded by the volunteers and officials to a club at the event in 2019 that optimises the values of Waka Ama; Manaakitanga, Whānaungatanga, Hauora , Tū Tangata, and of course the memory of Ace himself.

Other notable winners from last year’s (2018) regatta included:

- Premier Men’s W1 Champion - Tupuria King. (5th year in a row)

- Premier Women’s W1 Champion Akayshia Williams (2nd year in a row)

- Masters 70+ Mens Champion - Noel Clark

- Masters 70+ Womens Champion - Sherry Carne

- Premier Men’s 500m W6 Final - Vaka Manu Black, Manukau Outrigger Canoe Club (6th year in a row)

- Premier Women’s 500m W6 Final - Kaiarahi Toa, Horouta Waka Hoe. 4 th year in row)

- Premier Men’s 1500m W6 Final - Woolley Kumara, Horouta Waka Hoe

- Premier Women’s 1500m W6 Final - Kaiarahi Toa, Horouta Waka Hoe. (5th year in row)

- Premier Men’s W1 250M Final - Jamille Ruka, Akarana

- Premier Women’s W1 250 Final - Marama Elkington, TOA Waka Ama Club

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