Waka riders paddling strong
By Julia Wade
Members of a relatively new local water sport have succeeded in propelling their way through 42 kilometres of Auckland’s white-capped waters, as competitors in New Zealand's Premier Outrigger Paddle Festival.
Northland’s newest Waka Ama club, Mangawhai Waka Ama, took part in the three day Takapuna Beach Cup from February 16-18, an event that attracts paddlers from around the country as well as internationally, including teams from Australia, Cook Islands and even Hawaii.
MWA club captain Brandon Barclay says the mixed team, Mangawhai Mermates, came sixth out of 12 in their division of the marathon challenge.
“Really proud of the team’s efforts to achieve this result,” he says. “The seas were a bit rough which made the trip around Rangitoto, Motutapu and Rakino a four hour mission but we all really enjoyed the race. There were over 50 waka-ama on the start line which created a bit of fun mayhem!”
Dedicated team members train in Mangawhai Harbour up to three times per week and have raced in two other national competitions since forming in late 2016. While catering to those who wish to paddle competively, MWA also has a strong social focus with an emphasis on being a supportive and inclusive club.
MWA co-founder, regional representative and secretary, Jackie Fanning has been paddling for nearly 20 years and says that Waka Ama ‘ticks all the boxes’.
“It’s a sport that has a cultural foundation, is fun, promotes teamwork, increases fitness and gets you out on the water,” she says. “Although I started paddling in 1999 there’s always room for improvement from learning to steer then learning to steer in waves… and a number of competitions to train for and compete in.”
Waka Ama, meaning ‘outrigger canoe’, has steadily gained in popularity since 1981. To date there are more than 80 clubs stretching from Riverton to Kaitaia and is the fastest growing team sport for secondary schools. There are more than 5000 registered members with an estimated 10,000 unregistered paddlers also involved, with a diverse background of cultures and ages, from seven to over 70. The sport also has a unique quality which allows whanau and family members to train and compete together.
First-time paddler and MWA member for one year, Bridgette Sampson says she enjoys not just the physical side of paddling but also the mental enjoyment.
“It gives you time out on the water which I love and you get to see our beautiful surroundings,” she says. “We are fortunate enough to have pods of dolphins swimming with us out on the estuary which is something not everyone experiences.”
This season MWA is focused on development and setting up a junior paddling division. Currently they train in two borrowed W6 waka’s, so applying for funding to buy their own boats and transport safety equipment is a priority. A variety of local businesses support the club and they also receive funding from community grants.
“I would recommend anyone from all different lifestyles and fitness levels to come down to one of our club paddles,” Sampson says. “We are very welcoming and it is all about having fun out on the water.”
Interested? Visit mangawhaiwakaama.nz or check out Mangawhai Waka Ama on Facebook.
Training in all kinds of weather, members of Mangawhai Waka Ama club slice their way through the estuary waters.