Training sessions at 5.30am have paid off for young Rotorua paddler Khobi Paretoa, claiming two gold medals at the Long Distance Nationals in Auckland.
The 16-year-old Rotorua Girls High School student won gold in the ruddered and rudderless 12-kilometre events held over Easter weekend, defending the titles she won last year.
Khobi says training sessions in the lead up to the champs included two sessions each day, six days a week. Khobi's medals were two of the 11 medals her club, Hei Matau Paddlers, claimed at the event, adding to a superb weekend for Rotorua clubs as Ruamata Waka Ama Club won nine medals. Ruamata medals came largely in the rudderless events while two gold medals were won in W6 events.
The event more than 1100 paddlers, an increase of around 300 from last year, and began on Friday with single races before concluding with team racing on Saturday.
"It was a really good event," Khobi says.
"Not many people do long distance so to have more people was great and there was more competition.
"It was flat and calm up there and this year was harder because there was more pressure to get the titles back. The lead up was the same, I did the same training. I was more focused and I raced just as hard."
Khobi explains the ruddered and rudderless events are quite different.
"Having a rudder gives you better direction, without a rudder you are steering with the paddle. For me, having a rudder is harder because not having a rudder is what I mostly do."
Khobi's next big goal is to do well enough at next year's Sprint Nationals to qualify for the World Sprint Championships in Hawaii.
"I will mainly focus on nationals and to get to Hawaii I will have to train hard, get out on the water, be consistent and take more opportunities."
Hei Matau Paddlers secretary Stevie Paretoa says the club had hoped to maintain their title as best J16 girls W6 crew, which they had won for the past five years, but the crew earned a silver on Saturday.
"The girls did well, they only missed out on gold by 20 seconds. They were really happy with how they did – but they did want that gold.
"The whole club stood out and our coaches won gold in their race as well. We had no troubles racing in the harbour, I think we get worse weather on our lake than what we had up there."
Bay of Plenty medals at Long Distance Nationals:
Hei Matau Paddlers: Four golds, four silver, three bronze.
Ruamata Waka Ama Club: Six golds, two silvers, one bronze.
Tauranga Moana Outrigger Canoe Club: Three gold, one silver.
Tarawera Outrigger Canoe Club: Three silver.
Taupō Waka Ama Club: One silver.