Whangārei waka ama club paddling its way to world stage
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A Whangārei waka ama club is paddling its way to participate in the World Distance Championships 2023 in Apia, Samoa.
The women’s Senior and Golden Master teams of the Parihaka Waka Ama Club qualified for the event at the National Distance Championships in Whitianga back in April this year.
The worlds will be held from August 10 and 18.
Team Hiwa-i-te-rangi coach Ngaire Rae is also a paddler on the women’s Senior Master team, which is in the 50–60 age category.
The team is Rae, Moana Eruera, Rachael Francis, Kristin Edge, Esther Eves and Mary Sissons.
Rae has been paddling for the last 14 years with Parihaka Waka Ama.
She believes waka ama is more than just a sport for her and her team, aside from being physically and mentally demanding.
“Sometimes when you are in a waka with people, you can feel the flow, and you’re in that moment where it feels like everybody is paddling as one.”
Rae credits spiritual aspects for also playing a huge part in the sport, especially when it comes to team bonding.
“It’s not just a physical thing. It’s actually about mental, emotional, and wairua, or spiritual, things,” says Rae.
The team have been paddling together since February.
For Rae, coaching in waka ama has always been exciting.
“What excites me about coaching is how it brings six people together as a team to work in synchronicity.
“Sometimes when you are in a waka with people, you can feel the flow, and you’re in that moment where it feels like everybody is paddling as one,” she says.
Rae acknowledges the strongly rooted cultural significance that waka ama holds for the indigenous Pacific region.
“One of the cool things about waka ama is that it’s really grounded in Māori and Pasifika culture. It’s a sport that’s from here and throughout Te-Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, throughout the Pacific. I think that’s really special.”
The team has been training together since the beginning of March in preparation for the championship and have been committed to their training programme right through the winter season.
“We’re focused on water and off-water training. We train between four and six times per week on the water and three to six times per week off the water. It’s a mix of team and individual training.”
The Parihaka waka ama club has several other members who have also qualified for the World Distance Championships in individual categories.
These other members to qualify include a couple, Ana Latu and Gordon McKay, who are also members of other clubs.
Ana will be competing in the women’s 60+ age category team at the championship too, with the club Ngā Hoe Horo.
The chairwoman of Parihaka waka ama club, Kura Heke, will also be competing.
Heke has qualified for the single canoe event for the women’s 70+ age category and will also race in the six-person waka event with the Aratika club.
Open-ocean long-distance racing is impressive, and Heke believes the values of Māoritanga play a vital role in the paddlers’ wellbeing as athletes.
The values that contribute to their success are whakawhanaungatanga (the process of establishing good relations).
“Racing in open sea conditions is extraordinary, for all athletes. The success is attributed to the values of whakawhanaungatanga, manaakitanga and hau ora kaupapa. It is the traditional voyaging waka spirit of ancestors who traversed Te-Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific,” Heke says.
Manaakitanga is the process of showing respect, generosity, and care for the people who use services, their whānau, and their communities.
The Hau Ora kaupapa is based on four key principles: mental health, emotions, spiritual health and physical health.
For further information and support for the Parihaka waka ama club, go through the following webpages:
https://www.wakaama.co.nz/clubs/lookup/748Facebook page: Parihaka Waka Ama
Outrigger canoeing has been around in the Pacific since 200AD.
It has long been strongly embedded in Pacific culture and identity as far north as Hawaii, Rapanui (Easter Island) in the east, Tahiti in the centre and Aotearoa New Zealand in the south.
Historically, its necessities served many purposes for the people of the Pacific, such as fishing, trading, warfare, migrating to other islands, and communion, to name a few.
Hero Image: Hiwa-i-te-rangi - Ngaire Rae (left), Moana Eruera, Rachael Francis, Kristin Edge, Esther Eves and Mary Sissons. Photo / Supplied