Sport of waka ama sprints ahead in high school
RAIN and wind could not dampen the enthusiasm at the inaugural Hutt Secondary Schools Junior Waka Ama regatta at Hikoikoi Reserve in Petone last weekend.
It was the final event of a six-week waka ama programme for year nine and 10 students. At last, a chance for them to put into practice all they had learned about the sport.
Teams from eight Hutt Valley schools — Naenae College, Taita College, St Patrick’s Silverstream, Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt College, Te Ara Whanui Kura Kaupapa Māori, Hutt Valley High School and Wainuiomata — took part in the programme.
The programme was funded by KiwiSport and supported by Hikoikoi Waka Ama Club and Wellington Tenths Development Trust, which helped keep costs to students low.
On race day, up to 100 students took part with their supporters watching from the beach.
The waka teams had to sprint 250 metres in a strong northerly.
Waka ama coordinator and event organiser Chris Fox (right) says 98% of the students who took part in the programme were new to the sport. “The event went extremely well.”
Winning teams were: Taita College, boys Plate Final, Te Ara Whānui Kura Kaupapa Māori, mixed Plate Final, St Patricks College, Silverstream 2, boys Cup Final, Heretaunga College, girls Cup Final, and Heretaunga College 1, mixed Cup Final.
Hutt Valley High School won the team chant competition.The prize of six lifejackets for their school was provided by Ferg’s Kayaks/Atiawa Toa FM.
Chevi Hetaraka, 15, (above, right with two junior members of his whanau) was part of the boys team from Taita College who won the Plate Final.
“It felt good, we only had four trainings and still pulled off a win,” says Chevi.
“I want to continue with it. It’s something that’s worth doing, and it’s a good workout,” he says.
Ms Fox says teamwork, developing young leaders, knowledge about the water and swimming assessments were all part of the programme.
“You have to paddle as one, otherwise you won’t be going anywhere.”
She says they wanted to create an environment where the older youth were able to teach the younger ones.
Opal Howell, 21, a Massey University student doing a Bachelor of Sport Management and Māori Studies helped Ms Fox with the programme.
Opal was eight years old when she participated in her first national waka ama competition.
“I enjoy the sport, it helps me be me,” she says. “I took a break [for a few years], and it just came back. You know when you’re hungry for food? You get hungry for the sport.”
Waka ama has been a recognised sport since the 1950’s and is now enjoying a surge in popularity.
“It is the fastest-growing sport within secondary schools,” Ms Fox says.
Waka ama is going to be part of the Rio Paralympics in 2016, she says. “That’s a big thing for us, once it becomes a demonstration sport, it will grow from there.”