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Manaia Taipari competes at the national waka ama competition. Photo: SUPPLIED/WAKA AMA NEW ZEALAND

Waka Ama leads student to world champs

Hauraki student Manaia Taipari has the world stage in his sights after receiving a silver medal at the 2024 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals.
The 17-year-old competed in the sprint nationals at Lake Karapiro last month as part of the Asoy crew, which claimed silver and qualifying for the 2024 IVF Va’a World Sprint Championship at Hawaii in August.
Manaia also competed in the under 19s singles races at the national event, led by coaches Turanga Barclay-Kerr and Zanny Southon as part of the Te Toki Waka Ama club based in Hamilton.
Manaia told The Profile training with a goal like worlds in mind took commitment, discipline, and dedication – “training, eating good, and making sure you are at your best so you perform your best keeps you on all the time”.
Manaia, who is a year 13 student at Hauraki Plains College this year, said it was “hard for a young person like me to keep 100 per cent focussed”.
“Especially when your other mates are off doing fun stuff or just hanging out.”
Having an awesome crew, and a team that is “on the same vibe” were important to Manaia.

g a coach like Turanga, who only wanted the best for him, were key in helping him keep his eye on the goal, he said.
Keeping focussed and working hard at school throughout 2023 resulted in Manaia gaining all the NCEA Level 2 credits he needed by September. This allowed him to finish up the school year early and move to Hamilton to train during the summer season, where his crew and coach trained, to work toward his waka ama goals.
Manaia’s mother, Carrie Taipari-Thorne said trainings were initially once a day, two to three times a week while he worked full-time in commercial construction to help pay for waka ama costs and boarding.
He left work in late November to focus on training after it increased to twice a day, six days a week.
Carrie said training sessions for Manaia with his crew in Hamilton involved land and water fitness, boot camps, water skills and technique sessions, as well as race planning and strategy.
To continue training for the world champs, Manaia will now travel back to Hamilton three days a week for training while completing his school work at HPC.
He is also currently helping train corporate groups from Hauraki to compete in a Corporate Regatta run by Te Toki in Hamilton this month to raise funds for the World Champs. Manaia will be training them after school and will also help in training community groups who have just started their waka journey with their home club, Te Aputa Tira Hoe.
His advice for other students who may want to get involved in the sport was to “probably not to stay up late, and get to training”.
“Get in there and try it.”