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Waka Ama Nationals: From 5 to 82, paddlers at Lake Karāpiro go for gold

Natasha Hill

With 43 teams and 17 clubs joining in the first year, Hana (Te Whanau-a-Apauni, Te Arawa), who turned 5 two weeks ago, is in good company.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Waka ama runs in Hana Taute’s whānau.

The 5-year-old is the youngest paddler at this year’s Waka Ama Sprint Nationals, being held at Lake Karāpiro, where they have been held since 1990.

Her dad Duke Taute (Tainui, Te Arawa) also paddles and says Hana wanted to join after watching her older sister Tiare compete as the youngest paddler last year.

“Hana wasn’t old enough last year but she wanted to paddle because her sister paddles.

“They’re not really serious, they’re all up and down the river in Gisborne and that’s about it. Then they go and play in the park.”

Hana’s mother Emma (Te Whanau-a-Apaunui, Ngāti Porou) says waka ama is a family affair.

“It’s a bit of a family occasion. We’ve got other family here that paddle for other clubs as well... It’s our family sport”

Duke and Hana paddle for the Mareikura Waka Ama Club and include sister Tiare and cousin Nixon Dewes (Ngāti Porou).

They paddled in the first three days of the leg in the tamariki and rangatahi divisions aged 6-16.

The oldest competitor in this year’s competition is 82-year-old Peter Wilson, who claimed second place in the Golden Master Men singles.

Wilson missed first place by just 1.36 seconds, beaten by a fellow contender who he beat last year.

“I gave it everything I had and while I came second that didn’t matter. I gave it my best and I pushed him right to the end.”

Wilson refereed rugby up until he was 75, and decided to take up waka ama after the experience of his first race.

“I was looking for something else and I got invited to go to a Masters game. It was the waka ama W6 and I just loved it.”

In 2019, he competed in his first nationals and took home two gold medals.

He said he owes it to his club Te Whanganui River Outrigger Canoe and the friendly atmosphere at the nationals for one of the reasons he continues to paddle.

“I couldn’t believe how friendly it was. It’s a whole family, Waka Ama is.

“It’s not just the young ones or the old ones. It is for everyone involved and it’s just lovely.”

The corporate challenge races are being held today.

The Waka Ama National Sprint Championships will finish tomorrow.

Hero Image: Waka Ama Nationals 2024

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