A $30,000 grant from NZ Communities Trust to the Ruamata Waka Ama club will provide more opportunities for paddlers in the Rotorua area.
The grant will enable two new six-man waka to be bought, increasing the capacity of the club to offer both social and competitive paddling to club members and the wider community.
"This funding is hugely important," Ruamata Club Chairman Heeni Hope said.
"The new waka will mean we can get more people on the water. Our club members were very excited about the news that our application was successful."
Waka ama was a popular sport in the Rotorua community. There were four waka ama clubs in and around Rotorua, as well as several kura/schools which had taken to the sport.
The Ruamata club hosted a series of races called Te Rotohoe, which took paddlers to Lakes Rotoma, Te Rotoiti, Tarawera and Rotorua that was attended by paddlers from around the country. Rotorua had also hosted the National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships in 2018 and 2019 on Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
"We have about 300 paddlers on our club register, with about 100 being competitive, all-year-round paddlers," Hope said.
"The numbers of active paddlers increase over the warmer months. We are constantly looking at new ways to cater for the members of our community who are looking to start paddling, while also accommodating our competitive paddlers' needs."
The sport could be enjoyed by all ages. The youngest competitive paddlers at the Ruamata club were 6 and 7 years old, but paddlers as young as 5 participate out of competition.
The club had a strong field of paddlers that were Masters (40-49 years old) and Senior Masters (50-59 years old).
There were also several competitive and social paddlers who were Golden Masters (over 60 years old).
Ruamata also had a proud winning tradition with national and world champions calling the club home.
Its paddlers regularly compete at international events, such as the Moloka'i Crossing in Hawai'i, Vaka Eiva in Rarotonga and the Tahiti Aito.
"Waka ama is for some a sport, and for others a way of life," Hope said.
"Not only is it important for oranga tinana (physical health) but also to our oranga ngākau and oranga whānau (emotional and social/family wellbeing). Whānau in our club frequently paddle together, and our waka are also used at marae and iwi events. Waka ama is important to us as it is something that keeps us connected to our past waka traditions and places.
"It has been a very positive experience with NZCT. We are encouraged that they also see the benefits of waka ama and supported our tono (request) to fund two new waka for our club. Kāore i ārikarika ā mātou kupu whakamihi ki a NZCT."