Physically disabled waka ama paddlers in Northland have impressed the local club hosting them, saying several of them could go far in the sport.

The Parihaka Waka Ama club hosted a "have-a-go" day which sought to attract physically disabled Northlanders who could paddle - or have the function to - out from the woodwork.

Parihaka's Ngaire Rae was impressed by the potential of some of the paddlers, saying it was exciting to see.

"I was really pleased with how it went," she said of the event held last month. "There was a great turnout and people really enjoyed it.


"There are definitely some future paddlers there, huge potential.

"We want to see if we can take a few and be part of the demonstration race down at the nationals.

"[But] we're just at the beginning stages of it, and people need to be patient - we can't promise the world."

Adding to the day for Rae was being able to help get Northlanders back on the water, something they had not done since their accidents.

"One used to be on the water quite a bit and just loved the feeling of being back on the water."

Rae noted that another showed plenty of promise and had the mental determination which could take her far if she applied herself.

The "have-a-go" day, which was organised by Waka Ama New Zealand, has been dubbed a success - with Rae saying that Waka Ama New Zealand national development manager Conan Herbert, who hails from Northland, saw some potential in the paddlers.

Herbert said before the event the aim was to see what athletes were out there while keeping an eye on finding people who could compete in the sport at the 2016 Rio Paralympics - where para-canoe is a new sport.


Herbert said that while the sport would be known as para-canoe at the Paralympics, essentially it was waka ama and the skills were easily converted.

"What we're envisaging is getting four teams at the next nationals, then that's 12 paddlers who we're hoping can form the nucleus going forward to the next Paralympics," he said.

While there weren't any rules in relation to what sort of disability potential athletes could have to be considered for the Paralympic programme, they needed to be able to use a standard paddle at this stage if they wanted to join Parihaka's set-up.

The club is now looking into options of how to make its base at Kissing Point more disabled friendly by building a new pontoon.

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