First competition for siblings

Karāpiro Waka paddlers, and first time Waka Ama Sprint Nationals competitors, siblings Renee, left, Amber, and Conrad Pukape on Sunday. Photo: Jeremy Smith

There may have been just a touch of sibling rivalry on display as this trio set out to make a splash at this week’s 2024 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals.

Mostly though, they were beaming with pride.

More than 3000 paddlers from New Zealand and offshore – about 500 younger than 10 – are expected across the course before the event wraps up on Saturday.

Among them on opening day Sunday were Karāpiro Waka paddlers – Conrad, 10, Amber, 9, and Renee, 7, Pukape.

All three are first time competitors this year.

“I saw some paddling on tv and wanted to join,” Amber told The News.

So, they did so in September.

Amber is a Leamington School student, as is Renee, while Conrad goes to Cambridge Middle School.

At the nationals, the siblings were set to compete with six and 12-person crews over a distance of 250m.

“They went really well, I went as hard as I could,”

Amber said of her first two races when The News spoke to her.

Conrad’s races meanwhile were set for Monday and Tuesday and he admitted to a mix of “nervous excitement”.

“It really important we work as a team and I’ll give my all to keep up the pace.”

“I’m so proud that the kids are getting to experience something new – and have opportunities I would have loved when I was younger,” the children’s dad Hunter said.

He said his family line is full of people who have a passion for paddling.

“While the kids have only been involved for a few months, they are already absolutely loving it.”

Karāpiro Waka chair LeeAnn Muntz said the club has about 50 paddlers at the nationals.

The club was launched in 2017.

It was gifted two waka by Waikato-Tainui that year for the area’s two iwi – Tuu Rangatahi for Ngāti Korokī Kahukura and Tuu Rangakura for Ngāti Hauā.

Waka Ama spectators watch as competitors paddle past. Photo: Jeremy Smith

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