Northland paddlers pull upset

By Cameron Leslie

Northland waka ama paddlers stole the show at the nationals as the two inaugural races were taken out by locals.

With Kaitaia's Tupu King taking out the new 250m dash, which has created a buzz as a potential race to be included in future Olympic Games, it provides Northland waka ama paddlers with an exciting prospect.

King, who also came second in the under-23 500m, beat some strong paddlers in the dash to finish two seconds ahead of anyone else during last week's nationals at Lake Karapiro.

The other race making its debut at the nationals was the 500m W12, 12 paddlers racing in two canoes rigged together, which was won by the Taitokerau team, which paddles out of the Parihaka club.

Parihaka Waka Ama Club president Ngaire Rae Pehi said the club was stoked to take the race from Manukau, who had dominated the race for four years running.

"It's pretty significant, it's a big race," said Rae Pehi. "Our club is very happy about that. The significance in that race is that Manukau has won it for the last four years in a row [and it's] pretty significant to take it off an Auckland club."

A major upset was Parihaka's reigning world and national champion Richard Pehi being beaten by Stephen Hohepa by a second in the W1 500m final.

With para-canoeing included in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, it's hopeful that waka ama can be included in future Olympic Games. Next year's World Waka Ama Championships in Brazil will no doubt be watched closely by Olympic officials.

- Northern Advocate

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