Multiple world kayaking champion Aimee Fisher was inspirational as Hawke's Bay's Manuz & Jeminaz produced the upset of the national waka ama championships at Lake Karapiro on Saturday.

The Haeata Ocean Sports club crew of Roni Nuku, Te Waia Nuku, Fisher, Geni Walters, Annie Cairns and Kaye Ross won the premier women's W6 1500m turning race. Among the teams they beat in the final was Horouta's Kaiarahi Toa from Gisborne, the 2018 world champions who were aiming for a 10th consecutive title in this event.

"Aimee brings more than her muscle. She is a powerhouse who was doing a turning race for the first time after paddling for us in the straight races last year and she loved the turning race. She was great when we had our fine tune talks after each race and focused on the fixables," the oldest of the MJ'z, Ross, explained yesterday.

"Aimee loves the waka scene ... it's her happy place. She loves the Maori environment as it's a different vibe for her and there isn't the same pressure she is used to," Ross said.


"Ladies you are all absolutely incredible. I've been in some pretty epic races over the years but I can honestly say that the 1500m final is my all time favourite race. Everyone showed so much courage and determination. So perfect. I love being apart of this family," Olympian Fisher, a two-time Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year award winner, told the crew afterwards.

One of the original crew members from 2011, Cairns and Roni Nuku are the others, Ross, 51, said the MJ'z knew Kaiarahi Toa were beatable at the 30th annual nationals.

"We always go into events wanting to perform well but the difficulty with this crew is we didn't have a full training together before the nationals because Aimee is based in Auckland and Annie is busy with her Fire Service work in Palmerston North."

Kaiarahi Toa went into the final with the fastest qualifying time by 15 seconds. MJ'z shocked the world champions by sticking with them at the second turn. Kaiarahi Toa had no response for this unfamiliar pressure which MJ'z capitalised on going on to win by 11 seconds. There was a mixture of shock and elation from the supporters and spectators with many saying "this was the race of the whole regatta".

Maori Television commentator Te Arahi Maipi expected Horouta to "pull" MJ'z back by saying "with all that talent and experience, you can bet they will have some trick – they will have something left" but he quickly adjusted his comments when MJ'z continued to pull away and this time saying "it's not just the fact that MJz are leading, it's the fact they are dominating this race".

He finished his commentary with "MJ'z – with one of 'THE' performances of this year's nationals."

The MJ'z were the only Hawke's Bay crew to win a premier title at the nationals. They also won silver in their 500m final and bronze when they combined with their club's under-19 crew to compete in the W12 500m event.

Nuku paddled alongside two of her daughters, Te Waia and Pareputiputi in the W12 crew while Ross paddling with her daughter Mahina. Other members of the W12 crew were Rosalia Samia, Natalya Roberts, Kamoe Fabish and Honoria Ropiha.


Ross pointed out the W6 crew is hoping to be available to attempt a second consecutive title next year. Several of the crew are already focused on competing at the August 2020 world championships in Hawaii.