Waka Ama underway

Busy day for Mighty River Domain site manager Liz Stolwyk, left, and husband Andrew Reymer, fresh off a flight from Europe, on day one at the Waka Ama Sprint Nationals on Lake Karāpiro.

The Aotearoa Waka Ama whānau is competing at the 33rd Annual Waka Ama Sprint National Championships on Lake Karāpiro, Cambridge.

Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive Lara Collins says the event, which started  on Sunday January 15th and ends on Saturday 21st is full of excitement and a great opportunity to get together after many cancellations last summer.

“We are excited to bring our waka ama whānau together for nationals, not only to race but to be with everyone! It is going to be an awesome week!”

Nearly 2700 paddlers from 63 clubs throughout Aotearoa, along with 17 corporate teams and several international paddlers from Fiji, have headed to Waipā over the coming week. With crews coming from all over the country from as far north as Kaitaia and as far south as Christchurch.

There are going to be huge crowds lakeside watching the regatta, with around 8,000 expected during the week.

Waimirirangi Ormsby, Erina Watene, Tamoko Ormsby, Mini Campbell and Nialah Munro (Gisborne) at the National Science Challenges stand, Waka Ama National Sprint Champs. They are supporting a Waikato and Waipa River Iwi led project that is about protecting, restoring and caring for our tuna, so that they are abundant, healthy and thriving. The Maniapoto elver release is part of a bigger programme, led by the river iwi with the National Science Challenge’s support. The elvers on display at the Waka Ama are to engage the whanau. Not many people have seen baby eels before so it’s a good way to share what exists in the lake and share some messages around tuna and all of the other supported mahi. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

Collins says “There is a reduction in participation numbers as a result of the past few years of Covid, but regardless, the shores of Lake Karāpiro will be brimming with whānau happy to be back after the event was cancelled in 2022.

“Waka Ama is a sport like no other, with its inclusive nature bringing together paddlers of all ages and backgrounds with their whānau.

“Our youngest paddler competing this week is five and our oldest paddler is 81. It may be the only sport where grandparents, mums, dads and their kids can come together and compete at an event.

“That’s what makes it so special and unique, is the atmosphere – the racing is competitive but the vibe is what draws the crowds and whānau.”

This year sees the addition of Master 75 and Master 80 race categories; there aren’t many sports that cater to these age groups and it’s wonderful to have our koroua and kuia take part.

At this national 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.

Gaye King and Lee Ann Muntz from Ngāti Koroki Kahukura doing the karanga at the pōwhiri as hau kainga to manuwhiri come in. Photo: Supplied.

The inaugural Waka Ama Sprint Nationals was held in 1990 at Lake Karāpiro, back then there were 17 Clubs and 43 teams took part. This year we have 2,700 paddlers entered from 70 clubs, racing for the prestigious national sprint titles.

Male and female crews will compete for national honours in the Taitamariki (under 10), Intermediate (11-13), Junior U16, Junior U19, Open, Master (40), Senior Master (50), Golden Master (60), Masters 70, Master 75, and Master 80 age divisions.

The 2021 winner of the National Waka Ama club points trophy for overall performances throughout the regatta was Horouta Waka Hoe from Gisborne. The club will be back in 2022 seeking to defend their title, one they have won 10 times in the trophy’s 11-year history!

The winners of the 2021 Ace Cuthers Memorial Club Spirit Trophy Winners – Tu Tangi Ora (Kaipara) 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 2022 that epitomises the values of Waka Ama; Manaakitanga, Whānaungatanga, Hauora, Tū Tangata, and of course the memory of Ace himself.

Notable Stats and Info:

Paddlers competing = 2700

Clubs = 63

Regions = 6

International Paddlers = 3 (Fiji)

Race days = 7

Volunteers =150

Spectators = 8,000+

Races = 338

Corporate Teams = 17 (200 paddlers)

Female/Male = 20% more Women than Men

Oldest paddler = 81 (M) Arthur Wilson – Whanganui

Youngest paddler = 5 (F) Ava Keane-Tulepu – Porirua


More Recent Sports

Another Hart has ’em in a spin

Josh Hart dreams of playing for the Black Caps one day – and he certainly has the sporting pedigree for it. His father Matthew played 14 tests and 13 one-day internationals for New Zealand from…

Top flight for Roberts and Frost

It’s a big week for Nikki Roberts and Kerin Frost who make their debuts at the North Island darts championships in Hamilton. The two Cambridge Darts Club members – known as The Finisher and KDawg…

Getting the youngsters on track

They went to enrich their leadership skills and left with the makings of a pretty decent track cycling team. Cambridge Middle School’s 2024 student leaders visited the Grassroots Trust Velodrome last Thursday, finishing the day…

More fun on the run

The annual Waipā Fun Run organised by Cambridge’s St Peter’s Catholic School is attracting a growing number of out-of-region participants. This year’s family fun walk and run event, which has Cambridge News as one of…