Te Whānau a Apanui Waka Ama club was formed by seasoned paddler and coach Aroha Grant, who wanted her son to be involved in the sport that she loves dearly.
This year the club will send two teams to compete in the Midget section, this will be their nationals debut. Nestled at the base of Maraetai Bay, near Te Kaha, the water kids are training every day to do their rohe proud.
“They're doing really good,” says club president Grant, “They've only been paddling since December and so they've come a long way from not even being in a waka at all to building their confidence.”
They train every day in preparation for the National Waka Ama competition.
“We’ve been practising to paddle at the same time,” says paddler Hinerangi Awatere.
“The main focus I put on these kids in this age group is that I want them to love Waka Ama, it’s not about training hard there’s clubs that train them hard, I just want them to fall in love with the sport so that they will continue in their teenage years to adulthood,” says Grant.
The small club will send just two teams to the Nationals, one midget girls and one midget boys team
“My Aunty just asked me, “Would you like to do waka ama?” and I said “yeah” cause I had nothing else to do,” laughs Hinerangi.
“It’s hard,” says paddler Ariki Baker-Thomson, “I have to follow the paddle of my friend.”
“We really struggle to get the numbers because a huge challenge we have is distance between all our families,” says Grant, “One lives on one end of the coast and the others are on the other end of the coast so to pull them into one place that’s a huge challenge, and especially with waka ama you have to train every day and for that sort of commitment for parents and kids is huge.”
Grant is the coach of both teams and has been involved in the sport for decades, both teams will also combine to make a Midget Boys w12, which will feature girls in the team to make up numbers.
“I formed the club because I want my son to paddle,” explains Grant, “and there wasn’t an existing club in this area at the time. He’s the same age as all the kids that we’ve got, and I find that we have more parents support in that age group, so it makes it a whole lot easier to take the kids to Nationals.”
The first heat of five for the Midget men’s will be the first race of the competition when it kicks off on Monday the 14th of this month.