Waka ama competition is about more than just racing, says Te Kura o Te Koutu tumuaki (principal) Koa Douglas.

Last week, Tikitapu (Blue Lake) was abuzz as nearly 2000 rangatahi from 123 schools completed 206 races during the Secondary School Waka Ama Nationals.

Douglas says it is hard to put a finger on one aspect of the event which makes it special.

"The sport has grown over a number of years ... I guess one of the basic fundamentals of that growth is the growing relationships among the schools and the children.

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"Students come year after year and rub shoulders with students they normally wouldn't rub shoulders with. When they get here there's no distinction between those things that can actually separate us. Those barriers are broken down.

"It doesn't matter which school you are, they all mix extremely well. I think that's the main reason children love coming here. They're all on the same waka, even though they might paddle separately in schools, this is one huge waka heading in the same direction, in a sport which brings whānau together."

There were several Rotorua schools in action during the event and Douglas says for each it was a joint effort between students, teachers, parents and volunteers.

A group of paddlers put in maximum effort during the Secondary School Waka Ama Nationals. Photo / Supplied
A group of paddlers put in maximum effort during the Secondary School Waka Ama Nationals. Photo / Supplied

"You have teachers and parents come down to assist with coaching roles or cooking roles, it generates a lot of involvement for the wider whānau and wider community.

"The highlight for us is to be here, first and foremost. We realise we need to grow this if we want to compete at the highest level. We know participation is important but for the children to find some success on the water we believe is important as well."

He says children being involved in some kind of sport is important.

"It's important for them to be engaged in a sport and activity. We talk about fundamentals - it's one of the fundamentals for children's socialisation, growing and learning about the responsibility of being part of a team."

Western Heights High School English teacher and waka ama coach Keita Brightwell-Hauiti says overall it was a busy week.

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"The students have been really well behaved, so we're really pleased. I think the values they get out of being at an event like this would be Whakawhanaungatanga, looking after each other, but also trying to reach their very best, improve their health and fitness and being part of a positive atmosphere."

Rotorua schools' top results at Secondary School Waka Ama Nationals
U16 Boys - W6 250m Bowl Final
1st Rotorua Boys' High School 1:04.47
4th Rotorua Boys' High School 1:10.02
6th John Paul College 1:12.17
DQ Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu

U16 Girls - W6 250m Bowl Final
11th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 1:19.34

U19 Boys - W6 250m Bowl Final
4th Te Wharekura o Ngati Rongomai 1:10.76

U16 Girls - W6 250m Plate Final
6th Western Heights High School 1:16.67
DQ Rotorua Girls' High School 1:17.69

U16 Boys - W6 250m Plate Final
2nd Rotorua Lakes High School 1:03.05
5th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 1:03.95
8th Rotorua Boys' High School 1:04.30

U19 Girls - W6 250m Plate Final
6th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 1:08.94

U16 Boys - W6 250m Champ Final
6th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 0:59.57

U19 Girls - W6 250m Champ Final
8th Rotorua Girls' High School 1:05.10
9th John Paul College 1:05.29

U19 Boys - W6 250m Champ Final
4th Rotorua Boys' High School 0:54.28

U16 Girls - W6 500m Bowl Final
DQ Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 2:57.93

U16 Boys - W6 500m Bowl Final
5th Rotorua Boys' High School 2:44.25
7th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 2:44.63
DQ John Paul College 2:54.89

U19 Boys - W6 500m Bowl Final
5th Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata 2:37.56

U19 Girls - W6 500m Plate Final
5th John Paul College 2:46.74

U19 Boys - W6 500m Plate Final
DQ Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu 2:31.58

U19 Girls - W6 500m Champ Final
5th Rotorua Girls' High School 2:32.91

U19 Boys - W6 500m Champ Final
5th Rotorua Boys' High School 2:15.09