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Te Au Hīrere is competing at the IVF Va’a World Elite and Club Sprint Championships. Photo: SUPPLIED

Waka ama worlds quest ‘mind-boggling’

Seven young waka ama paddlers are in London this month for a “once in a lifetime experience” doing what they love among the world’s best.
The Te Au Hīrere crew from the Te Āputa Tira Hoe waka ama club, based in Turua and Te Puru, are in the UK for the IVF Va’a World Elite and Club Sprint Championships, on now until August 16.
Hauraki Plains College students Manaia Taipari, 16; Toki Rangitawa, 17; Konnah Te Are-Bayly, 16; Matthew Strickland, 16; and Te Rongopai Pompey, 15 are joined by Kereama Tuuta from Taranaki, and Zyrus Marriott from Ngāruawāhia.
“The majority of them haven’t been on a plane before, let alone overseas,” club chairperson Frank Thorne told The Profile.
Frank and his wife Carrie Taipari, who coaches the crew alongside Hikoi Taipari, co-established the club with members of the local Māori Community in Te Puru in 2014.
He said the paddlers’ journey to get to the champs was “mind-boggling and amazing”.
“It’s huge because, as a small club, our number one intention is to just get people on the water, so for them to be competing at a world level is a once in a lifetime experience.
“They also realise that they’re doing it for their community, their families, and that’s a lot of pressure but it’s something that they’re keen to make the most of.”
Te Au Hīrere trained to compete at a national event in January with the intention of vying for a spot at worlds.
They underwent regular fitness testing and hours of training on and off the water, and in April, the crew qualified to compete. The team is managed by Aroha Pokaia and Oriana Rangi, and to send the complete 11-strong crew to worlds, they needed to raise around $42,000.
To achieve this, the paddlers spent their weekends working on community projects, painting a house, helping out at schools, and handing out raffles, Frank said.
“I’m very proud – over the moon, actually. For them to understand what competition is like; to be around some of the greatest paddlers and also paddle against them and give them a good run for their money… but also, that world experience, how that changes them, not only as young men, but as they come back into the club is just awesome.”
Frank got his own taste of national competition when he was 16-years-old. He said back then, there were only around five clubs that had youth teams, and it was great to see the sport continue to grow in New Zealand.
“Now there’s almost 100 clubs,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to comprehend that 20 years ago it was nothing like this. Now, it’s getting bigger, it’s more creative, more exciting, and it’s a proud moment.”
DETAILS: Te Au Hīrere will compete at the IVF Va’a World Elite and Club Sprint Championships between August 8-16 in London. They will return home on August 24.