Continuing on from the secondary schools nationals earlier in the year, a small group of Rotorua Boys' High School waka ama paddlers went to the World Championships to paddle it out with the best the world could throw at them.

Lake Kawana, on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, was the location that pulled competitors from 35 countries.

Multi-coloured lane buoys bobbed about on the sparkling waters made tepid in the hot sunshine. The racing was intense and mistakes were punished severely as teams dropped out.

Into the mix went the Rotorua Boys' High School U19, 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools Waka Ama champions. Paddling for Koutu-based Hei Matau, they lined up for three finals which was an achievement in itself. They placed third in the W12 event, earning a bronze medal and bragging rights as the third best team in the world.


They came fourth and fifth in the 500m sprint and 1000m turns race respectively.

School prefect, steerer and crew captain Tipene James said it was inspiring to be at the event.

"Watching paraplegic paddlers doing the same times as able-bodied paddlers or paddlers in their 70s pushing to the max, was awesome."

The other paddlers in Tipene's team were Manaaki Te Kowhai, Te Maiora Rurehe, Kaipo Brown and Tihema Ned.

Two other paddlers who were members of the Rotorua Boys' High School U16, 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools Waka Ama champion team went to Worlds as well. They were Te Roro Eparaima and Jesse Yates. Both students triumphed, picking up bronze medals in the W12 event.

Teacher and paddler Wairangi Jones said it was an event that "truly showed the world how good New Zealand is at the sport".

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- Supplied by Rotorua Boys' High School