Far North paddlers headed the New Zealand vanguard at the 2016 IVF Va'a World Elite and Club Sprints Champs in Australia last week.
Once again, the standout was the King whanau of Taipa claiming its weight in gold medals. Rose King paddled for the elite New Zealand team which took out the Elite Women V12 500m, V6 1500m and V6 500m finals; and, with younger sister Riana, also featured in the Hourata Waka Ho Kaiarahi Toa team which won gold in the Open Women V12 500m final.
Brother Tupu King was also to the fore winning gold with the New Zealand team in the Elite Men V6 500m and also featuring in the Nga Hoe Horo Herberts on Tour team which took gold in the open men V6 500m and 1500m races. Others in the team, mostly from the Far North, were Conan Herbert, Matthew Clutterbuck, Scott Linklater, Superman Herbert and Turanga Barclay-Kerr. Tupu and Rose's mum Nyree also again claimed her share of the limelight by winning gold in the Master 50 Women V1 500, as well as paddling for with Ruamata Go Aotearoa team which won the Master Women V6 1500m and 500 finals.
Other local paddlers who added to New Zealand's gold medal success at the worlds were the combined Kaihoe o Ngati Rehia (from Kerikeri)/ Fat to the Max (Whangarei) team which won the Junior 16 Men V12 500m final (paddlers being Carrell Morunga, Darius Apanui-Nepe, Kahana Glassie, Keanu Wainohu-Kemp, Kewene Edmonds, Kiliona Tamati-Tupa'i, Micah Collins, Piripi Pakinga, Rua Mano Herewini, Tane Heta, Toi Munroe, Tomairangi Hetaraka); and the Angry Teddy Bears (Whangarei-based Mitamitaga o le Pasefika Va'a-alo club)/ Tiare Maori (Cook Islands Outrigger Canoe Association) collaboration which took out the J19 Girls V12 title (being Eden Collier, Georgia Naera, Ina Tere, Kalaia Heta, Kendal Evitts, Nikita Henare, Pani Trent, Pounamu Berryman, Sam Moe, Storme Pare, Tuatahi Mihaka and Zane Heta).
And this was only the tip of the iceberg with many of the above among the Far North paddlers who contributed to New Zealand's tally of 27 silver and 22 bronze medals. New Zealand eventually upset favourites Tahiti to finish at the top of the overall standings after the 2016 IVF Va'a World Elite and Club Sprints Champs were wrapped up on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.
New Zealand eventually claimed 30 gold medals, 27 silver and 22 bronze to win the overall medal tally count, compared with runner up Tahiti's 24 gold, 16 silver and seven bronze, and third placegetters Australia with 11 gold, 17 silver and 23 bronze.
The regatta was the biggest competition in the 17-year history of the event, evidence of how waka ama has developed as a sport across the globe.
More than 3,300 paddlers representing an estimated 30 countries) competed at the event on Lake Kawana from May 8-15. It was noted the New Zealand contingent was referred to as Aotearoa by commentators at the event.