A team of young Northland waka ama paddlers are hoping hours of training on and off the water will pay dividends when they hit the warm waters of Tahiti and paddle against the best in the world.

Team Paddle Fly, from the Mitamitaga Waka Ama Club, are about to compete in the 18th edition of the International Va'a Federation (IVF) World Sprints which begins in French Polynesia from Thursday next week.

The team of six qualified for Tahiti with a gold medal in the J19 500m race and a bronze in the 1000m race at nationals on Lake Karapiro earlier in January.

Since then their focus has been on Tahiti. Training over winter has been demanding but the team has not slacked off.

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The team has been coached by experienced Whangārei-based paddler Steve Roulston, who knows what it's like to collect gold on the international paddling scene.

Waka Ama team Paddle Fly off to World Champs in Tahiti L-R Toi Munroe, Carrell Mourunga, Mano Herewini, coach Stephen Roulston, Kewene Edmonds, Tane Heta and Haki Thompson.
Waka Ama team Paddle Fly off to World Champs in Tahiti L-R Toi Munroe, Carrell Mourunga, Mano Herewini, coach Stephen Roulston, Kewene Edmonds, Tane Heta and Haki Thompson.

Roulston was part of the elite men's team that claimed gold in the premier men's grade on the Gold Coast at the last World Champs two years ago.

Hours on the water concentrating on technique has been complemented by gym work at Kensington Fitness Centre which has included sitting in the sauna in preparation for paddling in 30C-plus temperatures.

In addition the mental fortitude of the paddlers has been strengthened thanks to sessions with High Performance coach Kelly McCallum.

The team are primed and keen to compete.

"We will have a few days to practise when we get there to get used to the heat and the different waka. It's going to be interesting racing against the Tahitians in their own water," Carrell Mourunga said.

The Whangarei Boys High School student said the team was well aware it was going to be a big challenge against the best paddlers from around the world in their age group.

Toi Munroe said training had been intense but every team going to the world championships would have been training just as hard.

The youngest member of the team Tane Heta, who turned 16 last week, was looking for to the vibe of racing in Tahiti.

While the paddlers have committed to training hard there has been a dedicated team working hard behind the scenes fundraising for the expensive trip.

Lead by team manager Shontelle Ferguson there have been quiz nights, barbeques and hangi organised to raise the funds. Then there have been those who have sponsored the team including Refining NZ, Ngati Wai, Nga Puhi Runanga, Stan Semenoff Transport Ltd and Kensington Fitness Centre.

The opening ceremony is tomorrow with racing starting on Thursday with a show of dance music to showcase the island and her people and will be officially hosted by the city of Pirae on the main island of Tahiti.

A number of Far North competitors feature in the field of 2100 paddlers from 34 countries set to battle for a number of titles over 11 days at the championships.

Having over 560 paddlers representing 33 clubs from Kaitaia to Queenstown makes New Zealand the largest contingent at the event and in a solid position to bring back plenty of gold.

The first of the official race events will have the best of the best from each country take part in the elite competition, with each country permitted one team per category (junior men, junior women, open men and open women) over two days of racing. Club racing takes place over the next six days with paddlers from throughout New Zealand representing 33 clubs from Kerikeri to Queenstown to bring home the club medals on offer.

One of New Zealand's strongest medal contenders to win an individual title is Taipa's Tupuria King in the open men's grade.

Not only will the action on the water be exhilarating but the atmosphere at the event is sure to impress with the hospitable nature of the Tahitian hosts, Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive Lara Collins said.

"The level of racing is like no other va'a event in the World. Not only are the best of the best from each county racing but the club event encompasses all age groups which reflects the inclusive and whanau nature of our sport. All of the gruelling winter training will come to fruition in Tahiti and I am very excited to see all paddlers - club, elite and para - showcase why Aotearoa is a force to be reckoned with in the va'a world."


World Waka Ama Sprints - Tai Tokerau paddlers:
Over 2100 paddlers are expected at the Worlds Waka Ama Sprints in Tāhiti Nui , 550 from Aotearoa, 60 from Tai Tokerau clubs.

To qualify for the World Sprints, teams had to gain top 6 placings, individuals top 4 placings in their age divisions in the recent January national Ngā Kaihoe o Aotearoa Sprints finals.

There are eight regional teams who have combined under three main clubs : Ngāti Rēhia, Parihaka and Mitimataga.

Aotearoa w1 Representatives from Tai Tokerau Clubs (18 reps)
J16 Men Tane Heta
J19 Men Toitehutahi Munroe
J19 Women Zane Heta
Open Men Tupuria King,
Para Men William Noble & Andrew Priest
Master Women 50s Shelley Hill
Master Men 50s Tony Munroe
Master Men 60s David King & Bill Halkyard
Master Women 60s Liz Tane, Kura Heke & Maria Collier
Master Men 70s Noel Clarke, Charlie Symons, Theo Vale, David McFarlane
Master Women 70s Sherry Carne

Team Representatives from Tai Tokerau Clubs:
Mitamataga Team Name Paddle Fly Junior 19 Men ( former world winners known as Ngāti Rēhia Fat Oysters)
Tane Heta
Ruamano Herewini
Kewene Edmonds
Carrell Morunga
Haki Thompson
Toitehutahi Munroe
Coach Steve Roulston

Ngāti Rehia
Team Name Oysters Reloaded Junior 19 Men
Julian Wah
Mason Matthews
William Taylor
Jimmy Lawrence
Shannon Hughes
Papahia Te Tai
Coach Danny Kaiawe

Tai Tokerau Junior under 19 women paddling for Tamaki Club Te Paerangi
Team Name - Tiare Māori
Mitamataga kaihoe Zane Heta & Te Arawa Tūmai

Open Men
Ngā Hoe Horo Tupu King NZ Elite Squad
Mitamataga kaihoe Jamille Ruka paddling for Pineula

Open Women Grade
Ngāti Rēhia u19 kaihoe Ngāreta Tuiloma - paddling for Tamaki Club Te Paerangi

Para Reps
Parihaka Club
Wallace Noble v1 250 m, 500m
Andrew Priest v2 250m , 500m

Master Women 40s
Parihaka Club
Team Name Waitii
Kelly Priest,
Liz Nelson-Cassidy
Sharon Thompson
Mary Sissons
Analatu Wolfgram-McKay
Carmel Barrett

Master Men 40s
Ralph Ruka
Master Men 50s
Ngāti Rēhia Club Team Name Seniors
Tony Munroe
Daniel Kaiawe
Noel Edwards
David King
Jeff Garrod
Whetu Pakau

Master Women 50s
Nyree King paddling for Rotorua club- Ruamata.

Master Women 60s
Ngāti Rēhia Club Team Name Tai Tokerau
Tapi Kaiawe
Kura Heke
Liz Tane
Anita Thompson
Maria Collier
Hilda Halkyard-Harawira

Master Women 60s
Ngāti Rēhia Club Team Name Wahine Rehutai
Esta Proctor
Caren Fox
Mala Grant
Moira Rauputu
Marlene Nikora
Marinna Millanta-Lowrey
Beverley Murray

Master Men 60s
Ngāti Rēhia Club Team Name Terminal Velocity
Tony Carne
William Halkyard
Wallace Poa
Leon Williams
Phillip Ash
Kevin Marevich

Master Men 70s
Parihaka Club Team Name Kotuku
Noel Clarke
Charlie Symons
David McFarland
Paora Howe
Howard Hyland
Theo Vale

Master Women 70s
Sherry Carne paddling for Aratika - Te Ara Pounamu