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Waka ama paddlers need exemption to wearing life jackets

Waka ama paddlers need exemption to wearing life jackets:

Waka ama guru James Papali’i has applied to speak at hearings regarding the composory requirement of people on vessels over 6meters to wear life jackets.

Mr Papali’i the co founder of one of N.Z most successful waka ama clubs namely Manukau Outrigger Canoeing Club and the Mangere based Portage Crossing Waka Ama Club says that the wearing of life jackets compromises the safety of paddlers and is unnessary because of all the other safety factors waka ama paddlers and clubs have already implemented.

Mr Papali’i talks about the traditional skills and paddling techniques that have been past down from the early polynesian voyagers of the pacific triangle to the modern waka ama paddlers of today. One of the most famous and challenging waka ama regatta in the world is the Molokai Crossing where paddlers fly to Molokai Island and six days later paddle back to Oahu through the Molokai channel a distance over 70Km. Mr Papali’i did this race in 1990
with the first N.Z waka ama crew led by the late Ace Greg Cuthers and Louise Henderson.

If life jackets were made compulsory to waka ama paddlers we could not compete in this regatta or any overseas regatta where change overs are necessary including regatta in New Zealand. Paddlers are required to change 3 paddlers at a time from the six person waka every 15 minutes so teams of nine can cover the long distance regatta. If paddlers were wearing life jackets they wouldn’t be able to get under the Kiato (outrigger) of the waka ama to complete the change over manover.

Waka ama paddlers are competant swimmers and life jackets, flares, safety support boats, and floatation devices are always on board. If paddlers were forced to wear them Mr Papali’i belives this will give them a false sence of security, it would hinder the paddlers tecniques and waka ama have two sealed compartments and front and rear that makes them float if they capzize.

Compusory wearing of life jackets impedes the culture and sport of waka ama and the already used safety requirements waka ama paddlers and clubs have implemented is more than adequate to keep paddlers safe.

As a waka ama paddler the composory wearing of a life jacket is not in our best interest.

Waka ama is a traditional and cultural way of life and the paddling techniques inhereted within the sport has been passed from generations dating back to the early vogages of the pacific triangle.


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