More than 1450 paddlers from 97 schools are set to battle it out at the 2015 ActivePost National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships in Rotorua.
Now in its 14th year, the championships are being held from this Tuesday to Friday (March 24 to 27) at Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
Waka Ama has enjoyed phenomenal growth in recent years with more than 5000 paddlers from 89 clubs participating across New Zealand.
The National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships are also one of the largest secondary school sports events in New Zealand - second only to the Maadi Cup rowing.
Chief Executive of Waka Ama New Zealand, Lara Collins, said the event organisers were expecting a bumper turnout of more than 1000 spectators to view the racing.
"Each year, the waka ama fan base keeps growing. What's especially pleasing is how the sport is becoming a popular option in schools for kids from all over the country and the Pacific. This year there are even 23 students travelling from Tahiti (College De Pao Pao) to take part.
"It's wonderfully unique and exciting for spectators too. Blue Lake is usually a serene and tranquil spot, but when the champs descend it turns into a place of energy and excitement with cheers ringing from the lakeside," she said.
Schools will compete for national honours in one, six or 12 paddler teams over distances of 250 and 500m. Teams competing in the six person 500m classes will also have to navigate their way through a hairpin turn at the halfway mark.
New Zealand Post's Community Sponsorship Manager Charles Ropitini said they were thrilled to support a sport that kept growing in popularity.
"In just 14 years we have seen the sport of waka ama racing take New Zealand schools by storm. It's fun, engaging and very community driven. Kiwi kids can't get enough of it and that is why ActivePost is delighted to partner with waka ama New Zealand to grow the Secondary School Championships into the biggest sports event on the school calendar," he said.