By Michelle Rhodes.
Waka Ama began months ago with all the preparations of a national event. But last Thursday afternoon, on Buffalo Beach reserve, the Powhiri (Welcome ceremony) marking the commencement of Waka Ama 2023, began.
It was my honour to be invited to walk with the female competitors and guest at the Powhiri (Welcome). While the event and sport of Waka Paddling is open to all ages, sizes, sexes, and races. The welcome was done in the full Maori tradition.
The women were followed by the men and guests, and we all found seats in the big tent. The rest of the welcome was conducted in Te Reo which I don’t speak. Frank Thorne TCDC Cultural Navigator spoke and the response from Manuhiri was led by Elite and his sister Waitangi Piripiu led the waiata response. Reading the body language and talking to people afterwards, I was kindly and patiently caught up.
The Waka Ama long distance National Championships was brought together by four teams who vied nationally to bring it to their region. - Te Puku o Te Ika Region, Whitianga Waka Ama, Hauraki Waka Ama, Te Āputa Tira Hoe and Te Whānau Waka Ama o Whangamata and they worked very hard with organising and delivering such an amazing event. Waka Ama NZ CEO, Lara Collins, says “The past two days have been challenging weather wise, but we have an awesome group of event organisers and kaimahi (volunteers) who have worked really hard to deliver a great and safe event! Sunday’s weather was perfect for our rangatahi paddlers ensuring safe conditions for their race.”
It was a wonderful achievement to have it come all the way to Whitianga and teams came from as far south as Dunedin. Over 1000 paddlers came with their wakas and support crew and whanau.
Carrie Taipari of Te Āputa Tira Hoe Waka Ama Club has been a part of the event organising rōpū for this event and says “It’s been impressive to see the community support and whanaungatanga that has brought us all together for the kaupapa of waka ama. It’s been great to see so many paddlers here from all across Aotearoa be a part of this event”.
Waka Ama NZ will be taking an Aotearoa Elite team to the International Va’a Federation World Distance Championships to be held in Samoa 10-19 August 2023. Confirmation of the full Aotearoa team will be confirmed in coming weeks.
Caption: Competitors getting ready to race.