Technique, fitness, knowledge of safety and conditions but above all, attitude, are what makes a good waka ama paddler, according to Ray Timihou.

The Koutu man would know - as a former waka ama champion he now passes his knowledge on to local youth as a coach and mentor.

Mr Timihou, 49, has been acknowledged for his efforts as the latest recipient of the nationwide ASB Good as Gold's initiative, which recognises, rewards and helps people in the community.

He said he was honoured to receive the award.


"I got into waka ama through a corporate event in Hamilton in 1996, I really enjoyed it and kept it up. It's also a Maori/Polynesian sport which makes it enjoyable . . . It's become a lifestyle."

Coaching four teams for the Hei Matau club - the masters men, junior U16 girls, junior U19 men and women - Mr Timihou is out the on the water Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and afternoons, attends swimming training on Tuesdays, and racing on the weekends.

"There's a lot of travel, and if we race on the ocean l like to practice on the ocean, for the different currents and swells."

He said he taught children how to read the conditions and how to make decisions themselves, but said safety always came first.

"It's great to see [the kids] achieve in the sport, if they can prove themselves in the waka it helps with school work."

As part of the initiative ASB has given Mr Timihou $3000 to go towards taking his junior U16 girls and U19 women to the junior paddlers long distance nationals.

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He said the money would go towards team registrations, accommodation and other event costs.

ASB are also sending Mr Timihou and his partner, who also does waka ama, on a trip to attend the Vaka Eiva international competition in Rarotonga in November.

Aside from watching the racing, and perhaps getting involved himself if "a team asked me to paddle for them", he plans to relax, and do some fishing and diving.

"Thank you to ASB - the money helps for the girls, and it'll be good to sit there in Raro and relax and not worry about training."

Mr Timihou said he was nominated for the initiative by his cousin Lauren James whose kids and husband were coached by Mr Timihou.

"I nominated Ray because he has done so much for so many years and asked for nothing in return," Mrs James said.

She said he didn't do what he does for accolades but because he loved the kids and the sport of waka ama.

"If you have a teenager willing to get up at 5.30am and train it says a lot about the person who coaches and trains them."

ASB community, sponsorship and events head, Mark Graham, said ASB was delighted to reward Mr Timihou for making a positive difference in his community.

"ASB is always humbled by the stories of our ASB Good as Gold recipients, and Ray Timihou is no exception. Ray truly is a local hero; a Waka Ama champion himself he passionately coaches the sport to the youth in his community.

"He is a coach, mentor and positive influence to so many. We're thrilled to recognise his efforts and reward his hard work."