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University waka ama team wins silver and fans in Hawaii

University waka ama team wins silver and fans in Hawaii

Media Release - University of Auckland - 14 September 2015

Waka ama teams around New Zealand are talking about competing in the next Queen Lili’oukalani in Hawaii after the University of Auckland team’s silver medal in the race recently.

The race off the island of Hawai’i and based in the township of Kailua Kona, is the largest long distance waka ama race in the world at 30km, has taken place for the past 44 years, and involves about 2500 paddlers from around the world each year.

The University team, Nga Tauiira Māori (NTM) was the first University team from Aotearoa to take part in the race, and made a big impression on the race organisers, who are keen to see the team back next year.

“We hear that they are the talk of the waka ama clubs in New Zealand and now more clubs want to come here next year,” says University of Auckland director of Sports and Recreation, Louis Rattray. ”We have also established the mixed category for future events, so it’s all pretty positive.”

Relating some of the highlights from NTM’s racing in Hawaii, he say that “The Queen Lili’uokalani race is a gruelling 30 kilometres in 33 degree heat and 80 percent humidity. While the sea conditions were good the heat and humidity was certain to take its toll and the importance of hydration we had been drilling into the team was suddenly realised.”

“For the main race on Saturday, the team got themselves sorted and into the waka and we bid them farewell and good luck,” he says. “The start was difficult to see as it was quite a way off the shore line and of a distant point, but with 122 teams the mass of craft still made the start visible from shore.”

“After about two hours and 50 minutes the first mixed team crossed the line. We had not won this race and the nervous anticipation of where we would finish and in what state was showing on the shore crew,” says Mr Rattray. “Then we spotted them in the distance. As they came closer into view we could see the strain on their faces but they were still in one piece and paddling as one team. They crossed the line in two hours 59 minutes claiming a silver medal.”

The team had put in a fantastic performance and were only ten minutes behind the mixed gold medal winners. The successful NTM mixed team included Noenoe Barclay-Kerr, Janell Dymus, Te Ra Hodges-Tai, Ngahuia Ormsby, Tamoko Ormsby, Waimirirangi Stone, Apenti Tamanui-Fransen, and Tai Stephens.

“The team was too spent to be elated at this time,” he says. “They were simply happy to have survived the race.”

NTM paddler Tai Stephens agreed that, ”this was the hardest thing they had ever done physically and the heat and distance challenged the team mentally.”

The team had a busy itinerary since arrival earlier that week with sprint races and an International Paddlers night where NTM performed some “incredible” waiata and haka that were very popular.

“Our paddlers are the talk of this event,” says Albie Gysberts, one of the University’s sports managers who helped look after the team. “Everyone has heard about them and wants to meet them and talk to them. It's incredible.”

The team arrive back in New Zealand this week and will be returning to their University studies – at least until next year and the University’s next Great Waka Ama race in March.


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