Waka Ama: Ready to jump into Rarotonga paddling

By Cameron Leslie

Whangarei's Rachael Hetaraka will not be scared of what lies beneath when she jumps from her waka in the Vaka Eiva waka ama relay around Rarotonga next week, unless her teammates remind her.

Hetaraka, and her Parihaka waka ama club mates, leave for Rarotonga today as they prepare to begin the regatta on Monday.

The relay is considered one of the fun events with teams paddling for around 20 minutes before a "change" is called for; where other paddlers switch with those who are tired.

People from the support boat will jump in the water and the people in the waka jump out at the same time, said Hetaraka.

"It all has to happen simultaneously otherwise you'll flip, or have to stop paddling. It's challenging, physically, and mentally with the whole jumping in and everything.

"I'm a little nervous about doing change race in Raro, mainly because I haven't done it before and don't know what the conditions will be. Because last year the conditions were quite rough.

"I'm not nervous about sharks though, at least until someone in my team reminds me of them," said Hetaraka.

This is the club's second year competing at Vaka Eiva, in 2011 the club won a bronze medal in the Iron Mixed Opens division and are keen for another medal this year.

Under the leadership of club captain, Dave McFarland, the club are taking a 12-strong crew and competing in a range of races, Parihaka Sports Club vice-chairwoman Liz Cassidy Nelson said.

The week-long event, which has paddlers from around Northland and New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti competing, includes races for adults, juniors and non-paddlers such as swimming races and a swan diving competition.

During the event, Vaka Eiva paddlers and supporters will make up almost 10 per cent of the population of Rarotonga.

Even though Hetaraka is looking forward to racing, she is more excited about relaxing in the sun and being on holiday between races.

The event is conveniently set up to cater for adults who are looking for a bit of relaxation, with racing taking place every two days so visitors are able to enjoy the local night life.

Hetaraka will be accompanied by her husband Daniel Gotz, mother Bernie, and two children, Jorja, 9, and Jackson, 7.

- Northern Advocate

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