The inaugural Waka Ama Sprint Nationals was held in 1990 at Lake Karāpiro and 17 Clubs and 43 teams took part.
This week, the 31st edition of the event was held and drew 2168 race entries from 68 clubs.
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A man instrumental in the growth of the sport in the last 30 years was Greg "Ace" Cuthers, who died in 2010. In 2011, Waka Ama New Zealand introduced the Ace Cuthers Memorial Club Spirit Award to be given to the club at sprint nationals which best demonstrated the values of Waka Ama; Manaakitanga, Whanaungatanga, Hauora, Tu Tangata, as well as the memory of Cuthers himself.
This year, it was Rotorua's Hei Matau Paddlers who won the coveted award, chosen by volunteers and officials at the event.
Club captain Kelley Korau said the event was the "pinnacle of the sport in New Zealand" and to win the club spirit award meant a lot to the club.
"That's amazing, we're very humbled to receive it. It's an amazing taonga in the spirit of the sport which was contributed through a beautiful man who is no longer with us. It's just beautiful to receive something like that.
"In the past we've been quite a small club but this year we had about 140 paddlers attend the event. We never thought that trophy would come our way and we're very appreciative."
She said competing with good spirit was something that had always been important to the club.
"It's something we really try to instil in our young ones particularly because we want to see them continue to grow and aspire to bring other people and young ones like themselves into the sport and show them that same spirit.
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"What happens on the water is competition but when you come off you have to look after each other. We're definitely strong about that at our club."
Hei Matau also finished third on the overall medal tally with five gold, five silver and one bronze. She said one of the highlights was the performances of some of the club's up-and-coming paddlers.
"We were really stoked with that. It was an amazing week, the weather was amazing, there was a little bit of wind and the competition was fierce as. Everyone has been out there training hard over summer and it showed because of the close racing through a number of the events.
"One of the highlights for me was the J19 girls' W12 because they came together quite late in the season and won gold in the 500m. That was a mix of our J16 and J19 girls and it's a good start for them to build their confidence.
"It's exciting to have them doing well, we do put a lot of time into our juniors because it's important. We won't be here forever so hopefully over time they start taking things on, some of them are already coaching the younger ones and things like that - that's what we're working towards."
In total, the seven day event attracted more than 3900 paddlers, 13,000 spectators, 150 volunteers, 68 clubs and there were 406 races held.
Gisborne's Horouta Waka Hoe dominated the medal tally and took out the club points award for the ninth time. For the full results go to: https://www.wakaama.co.nz
The next event for New Zealand paddlers to look forward to is the James Bhutty Moore-morial Race held at Pilot Bay in Mount Maunganui on February 1 and hosted by Hei Matau Paddlers.