By Steve Carle
Ōpūnake was the destination the previous weekend for Tararua College Year 13 and 10 students, some having their first ever waka ama ride.
The trip consisted of Year 13 senior leaders, Year 10 students, staff from Tararua College and Brandon Young, cultural adviser for Tararua College's overseas trips.
Alex McKinlay, teacher of English and Social Sciences at Tararua College, said, "These students have chosen to complete the Amazing Race Elective at the end of 2021.
"This consists of a cultural exchange to Samoa and Fiji to work on their leadership, teamwork, tuakana-teinatanga, manaakitanga and wānanga.
"We travelled to Ōpūnake to learn about water safety, first aid, practised our cultural exchange kapa haka bracket, completed team building activities, our senior students practised their leadership skills, and immersed our students in a new environment and activities to see how they would react.
Trust House Limited provided the funding that made the Ōpūnake trip possible.
"The students took on the challenge and collectively embodied our three school values of Whakaute, Whakawhāiti and Kairangi.
"One of the highlights of the weekend was the Taranaki Outrigger Canoe Club bringing their waka ama down and teaching our students the tikanga of waka ama. Our students rallied together and everyone gained the confidence to have a turn in the waka ama. Many of our students overcame this challenge with flying colours and demonstrated resilience throughout, going back for another turn," she said.
"We took this trip to Ōpūnake as an opportunity to get used to being in the water in the ocean as a team, for all our students," senior student Keshaan Te Waaka said.
"We also used this as our first bonding workshop with the seniors and juniors together. It was my first time in a waka, seeing it assembled and then taken apart. It was mixed emotions for me stepping on board the waka, I know the waka has a lot of mana and we were taught by good mentors as well.
"It was moving about in the waves, I almost fell out of the waka, which was funny. We were riding the waves, it was fun. We were working together to get the rhythm of the waka. The first time we went out, I was the caller - I had to be in time and be loud, it was quite an honour to be calling the timing.
"After I fell over the first time, I went out again, but it was quite scary because the waves were getting bigger and bigger towards the end. I'm teaching the cultural bracket to the group, we learned a waiata in Taranaki we can use in our cultural exchanges overseas."
Going to Ōpūnake was a good experience for senior student Logan Rankin.
"It was good getting to know all the Year 10s and it was my first time getting in a waka - definitely a learning curve," he said.
"I was excited to see what it was all about. We paddled hard-out and the waves moved the waka even faster. I would go on a waka again, it was a good experience. We learned water safety lessons on the first day as well as First Aid and CPR.
"We have a new haka to learn and more fundraising ahead of us to do this year. Also to learn will be key phrases for use in Samoa and Fiji," he said.
Preparation to go to Samoa and Fiji started halfway through last year with fundraising. The supervisors had a plan for fundraising which saw activity in the Christmas parades, McDonald's and GingerBread Houses at Christmas with car cleaning coming up next.