A new waka ama regatta in the Far North will start small but could grow into one of the sport's biggest events in the country, organisers say.
The Bay of Islands Waka Festival will be hosted by Waitangi's waka ama club this weekend, combining sprints, relays and long-distance races in waka ama as well as displays by traditional waka. Racing will start daily about 9.30am at the Waitangi Bridge end of Tii Beach.
Saturday would have an emphasis on fun with a relay that promised to be a good spectacle because the handover was on land, forcing paddlers to run up the beach, as well as racing close to shore in midget, novice and intermediate divisions. Sunday would be set aside for traditional waka displays and a challenging 25km race to Motuarohia Island and back called Te Taiawhio o Ipipiri.
The race was founded 25 years ago by the late Kris Kjelsden but has not been held for the past 17 years. Seven clubs have confirmed they are taking part so far from Dargaville, Kaitaia, Russell, Tutukaka, Te Tii, Waitangi and Whangarei.
Albert Cash of Kawakawa, who plays a key role in the Waitangi Day waka fleet, will help with the traditional waka display, while Waitangi Treaty Grounds carver Anthony Dunn has been busy making trophies.
Despite a six-month search the location of the original Te Taiawhio o Ipipiri trophy was unknown, so Mr Dunn had carved a new one in the form of a hoe (paddle) along with four other trophies.
Event spokesperson Anika West said if there was going to be a waka festival anywhere in New Zealand, it should be in the Bay of Islands and it should combine waka ama and traditional waka. She hoped it would grow into a "must do" on the waka ama calendar and attract paddlers from all over country.
Mrs West said the festival had received funding from the Far North District Council's economic development fund but the aim was to make it an annual, self-sustaining event.
Secondary school titles
A field of 112 schools and 1830 paddlers battled it out at the 2017 Te Wananga o Aotearoa National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships in Rotorua last week.
The tally was 300 more than the previous year and the first time in the 16-year history of the event that over 100 schools had taken part. Organisers said this meant the event on Tikitapu/ Blue Lake from Tuesday to Friday (March 28-31) could lay claim to being one of the largest secondary school sports events in New Zealand.
Representing the Far North at the championships were Kerikeri High School, Opononi Area School, Okaihau College, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Tonga O Hokianga in Whirinaki, Te Kura Taumata o Panguru (Panguru Area School) and Te Rangi Aniwaniwa. Schools were competing for national honours in one (w1), six (w6) and 12 (w12) paddler teams over distances of 250 and 500 metres.