Image: Waka Ama NZ
Thousands of paddlers are set to compete at the annual Te Wānanga o Aotearoa National Waka Ama Sprint Championships next week.
The picturesque Lake Karāpiro will host over 1700 teams from 61 clubs as they participate in what is one of Aotearoa's fastest growing sports.
Waka Ama New Zealand CEO Lara Collins says this year's event promises to be full of excitement.
“This year in July, Tahiti are hosting the World Club Sprint Championships and many teams taking part this week at Karāpiro are trying to qualify to to represent their club and New Zealand at that event, so the racing will be intense!
“We have similar numbers to last year with 3300 paddlers competing. We’ve got crews coming from all over the country from as far north as Kaitaia down to Wakatipu in the South Island (for the first time). “There are going to be huge crowds lakeside watching the regatta. With around 10,000 expected during the week.”
Collins emphasises the uniqueness of the sport and how its inclusive nature brings together paddlers of all ages and ethnicities.
“It’s a sport for all sorts of people from all walks of life. This week 2100 of the paddlers are under the age of 19 and 1200 of those are aged under 13. Our youngest paddler competing this week is 5 and our oldest paddler will turn 80 this year.
Waka Ama is probably the only sport where grandmothers, grandfathers, mums, dads and their kids can come together to race competitively.”
Waka Ama paddlers race over distances including 500m, 1500m and marathon races of 30km-75km.
Clubs will compete for national honours in one, 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 2017 National Waka Ama club points’ trophy for overall performances throughout the regatta was Horouta Waka Hoe from Gisborne. The club will be back this year seeking to defend the titlethey have won 6 times in the trophy’s 7 year history.
The competition runs from January 15 to 20.