More than 1530 paddlers from 96 schools are set to battle it out at the 2016 Te Wananga o Aotearoa National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships starting in Rotorua today.

Now in its 15th year, the championships run from today until Friday at Rotorua's Tikitapu (Blue Lake).

Te Wananga o Aotearoa National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships is one of the largest secondary school sports events in New Zealand - second only to rowing's Maadi Cup, which is also running this week.

Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive Lara Collins said the event had grown from strength to strength over its 15-year history with more schools getting involved.

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"Each year, the waka ama participation base keeps growing. Having been at all 15 events since the first one in 2002, I've watched the event grow and we now have teachers who were once students paddling, getting their schools involved. It's awesome to witness such growth.

"It's wonderfully unique and exciting for spectators too. Tikitapu is usually a serene and tranquil spot, but when the championships descend, it turns into a place of energy and excitement with cheers ringing from the lakeside and the most stunning backdrop anyone could ask for," she said.

Asked why there has been so much growth, Ms Collins said "It is a sport that anyone can take part in, and kids really love it. They get to represent their school through competition, be active and learn teamwork and many other skills both on and off the water. Whether teams are competitive or just taking part to have fun, there is something for everyone."

Schools will compete for national honours in one, six and 12-paddler teams over distances of 250m and 500m.

Teams competing in the six-person 500m classes will also have to navigate their way through a hairpin turn at the halfway mark.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa's director of marketing Hone Paul said they were thrilled to support a sport that kept growing in popularity.

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"Rangatahi (youth) are jumping in to waka ama in droves each year.

"It's an exciting sport that mixes traditional knowledge in Maori voyaging with competitive racing as well as aspects of hauora (fitness and well-being), which really resonate with rangatahi," Mr Paul said.

The popularity of the sport is reflected in its waka ama courses, with the programme now offered in eight locations across the country, he said.

The event is hosted by Te Waiariki Purea Trust which has hosted the championships with Waka Ama New Zealand since 2005.

Trust chief executive officer Laurie Durand said they always looked forward to this event.

"The trust are excited to welcome new sponsors Te Wananga o Aotearoa and are very proud to support the growth of waka ama especially for rangtahi."

The winning crews for the 2015 Active Post National Secondary Schools Waka Ama Championships were:
* U19 250m Boys W6 Championship: St Patrick's College, Silverstream
* U19 250m Girls W6 Championship: Gisborne Girls High School
* U19 500m Boys W6 Championship: Rotorua Boys' High School
* U19 500m Girls W6 Championship: Gisborne Girls High School
* U16 250m Boys W6 Championship: De La Salle College
* U16 250m Girls W6 Championship: Lytton High School
* U16 500m Boys W6 Championship: Gisborne Boys High School
* U16 500m Girls W6 Championship: Lytton High School
* U16 250m Girls W1 Championship: Tia Akurangi, Lytton High School
* U16 250m Boys W1 Championship: Tomairangi Kaipara-Hetaraka, Hoani Waititi Marae
* U19 250m Girls W1 Championship: Marama Elkington, Mana College
* U19 250m Boys W1 Championship: Daniel Kauika, Wanganui High School
* U16 250m Mixed W12 Championship: Kaipara College
* U19 250m Mixed W12 Championship: Tawa College

The schools competing in this year's championships are:
* Auckland Girls Grammar School
* College de PAO PAO (Tahiti)
* Cullinane College
* De La Salle College
* Dilworth School
* Fairfield College
* Flaxmere College
* Forest View High School
* Francis Douglas Memorial College
* Fraser High School
* Freyberg High School
* Gisborne Boys' High School
* Gisborne Girls' High School
* Hamilton Boys' High School
* Hamilton Girls' High School
* Hastings Boys' High School
* Hastings Girls' High School
* Horowhenua College
* Huanui College
* Hukarere Girls' College
* Huntly College
* James Cook High School
* John Paul College
* Kaipara College
* Kelston Boys' High School
* Kelston Girls' College
* Kerikeri High School
* Lytton High School
* Mana College
* Manukura
* Manurewa High School
* Melville High School
* Mt Maunganui College
* Napier Boys' High School
* Napier Girls' High School
* Nga Taiatea Wharekura
* Ngapuke School
* Ngaruawahia High School
* Otaki College
* Paeroa College
* Papatoetoe High School
* Raglan Area School
* Rongotai College
* Rosmini College
* Rotorua Boys' High School
* Rotorua Girls' High School
* Rotorua Lakes High School
* Rutherford College
* Sacred Heart Girls' College (Hamilton)
* Sacred Heart Girls' College (New Plymouth)
* St John's College (Hamilton)
* St John's College (Hastings)
* St Joseph's Maori Girls' College
* St Mary's College
* St Patrick's College, Silverstream
* Tai Wananga
* Tamatea High School
* Taupo Nui-a-tia College
* Tauranga Boys' College
* Tawa College
* Te Aute College
* Te Kuiti High School
* Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Nga Uri a Maui
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Ara Hou
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Ara Whanui
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rito
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Tonga O Hokianga
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tupoho
* Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata
* Te Kura Maori o Porirua
* Te Kura-A-Iwi-O-Whakatupuranga Rua Mano
* Te Pi'ipi'inga Kakano Mai Rangiatea
* Te Puke High School
* Te Rangi Aniwaniwa
* Te Wharekura o Maniapoto
* Te Wharekura o Mauao
* Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga
* TKKM Hoani Waititi Marae
* TKKM o Te Kotuku
* Tokoroa High School
* Tolaga Bay Area School
* Tuakau College
* Waitakere College
* Waiuku College
* Wanganui City College
* Wanganui High School
* Wellington East Girls' College
* Wellington Girls' College
* Western Heights High School (Rotorua)
* Western Springs College
* Westlake Boys' High School
* Whangarei Boys' High School
* Whangarei Girls' High School