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Fijian waka ama paddler plans to help build the sport at home

Merewai Durutalo

A Fijian paddlers journey to waka ama after COVID-19 lockdowns back home in Fiji were lifted

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

For Simione Bereso the journey to waka ama started two years ago after Coivid-19 lockdowns back home in Fiji were lifted.

The Naweni village, Savusavu, Cakaudrove, Vanua levu paddler took up the sport after deciding he wanted to try something new and to also take a break from playing rugby.

“I joined last year after lockdown back home. I just got tired of playing rugby, so I decided to do this, something different,” Bereso says.

Bereso is a member of the Taf’aga Outrigger Canoe Club from Fiji, which has been part of the 2024 National Sprint Championships at Lake Karāpiro, Cambridge.

He competed in the Waka one and six 500 metre men’s events.

The event has been taking place over the past six days and draws to a close on Saturday January 20.

‘Really good start’

Bereso says it is his first time at Lake Karāpiro but he has already been to Aotearoa a few times over the past decade and he finds it fun taking part in these events as there’s more competition here than back home in Fiji.

“We just have normal club regattas. There’s only seven clubs back home so it’s not that big or professionally done like this. We’re hoping when we come back out here that more clubs will come out too.”

Bereso says that they had to fundraise for a little over a year by selling lovo packs (Indigenous Pacific food cooked in an earth oven) over the course of 14 months to be able to make it to the event.

He says that he really likes that at the event the Māori language is spoken and he says his love of being out on the water drew him to the sport.

“It’s really good building up the sport back home. I think coming here is a really good start.”

Hero image: Simione Bereso competed in the Waka one and six 500 metre men’s events. Photo: Whakaata Māori

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