Thirty-six paddlers from Wairarapa Waka Ama Club will be making a splash at the 2024 Waka Ama National Sprint Championships on Lake Karāpiro from January 14 to 20.
Paddlers from the region will be competing in three classes, rowing different distances in varying races.
The tai tamariki teams of six-to-10-year-olds will cover a distance of 250 metres, both in a 12-person and a six-person team.
The intermediate boys and girls will compete in two races, one a straight race with a distance of 500m and the second being a 500m race with a 180-degree turn at the halfway mark.
The master women’s team will also compete in two races – a 500m straight and a 1000m race with three turns once they reach the 250m marks.
Coach Paddy Rimene-Albrett has been participating in and coaching Waka Ama for about 15 years.
He expects this year to be a big one as New Zealand’s national teams will travel to Hawaii in August for the World Sprints.
“Hawaii is a massive drawcard for teams across New Zealand,” Rimene-Albrett said.
While he is confident they can win, he said that the sport is more than just the competition.
“I don’t coach for them to go away and win, I want them to enjoy this space of waka,” he said.
Waka Ama is a sport imbued with the values of kaupapa Māori at its foundation, and Rimene-Albrett says the space of waka is “deeper than winning”.