Time spent with top waka ama coach in Taihiti like gold

DISTANCE CONTENDERS: Horouta Waka Hoe Club crews Baby Heli’s and Hinetoa will paddle as Aotearoa in the J19 men’s and women’s divisions respectively at the world long-distance championships on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, next week. Crew members are, back (from left): Darius Apanui-Nepe, Manaakiao Maxwell, Kitini Taihuka, Anaru Paenga-Morgan and Mairangi Campbell. Front: Rangi-Riana Williams, Kelsey Teneti and Ariata Kutia. Absent: Te Aho Paenga and Kacey Ngataki from the J19 men’s team, and Kyra Mita, Khobi Paretoa, Gaibreill Wainohu and Makayla Timoti from the J19 women’s team. Picture by Paul Rickard
Inset: Mareikura Waka Ama Club members Raipoia Brightwell (left) and Beverley Murray are steering for crews representing New Zealand in the senior master and golden master women’s divisions respectively.J19 picture by Paul Rickard, inset picture by Liam Clayton

FOUR weeks training in Tahiti with one of the world’s top coaches of long-distance waka ama champions could bear fruit for a team of young Gisborne paddlers as early as next week.

The Horouta J19 men’s team Baby Heli’s are New Zealand’s representatives in their age group at the world long-distance championships on the Sunshine Coast next week. They qualified by winning their division at the long-distance nationals in Auckland in April, as did Horouta J19 women’s team Hinetoa.

National elite women’s sprint coach Kiwi Campbell coaches both squads, and felt the men would benefit from time spent in Tahiti with retired coach Mario Cowan, who guided the fortunes of distance racing champions Team Shell Va’a.

“We feel confident that our J19 men can foot it with the best of their age group in the sprints,” Campbell said.

“But we have a gap when it comes to marathon racing on the world stage. When I took on the job of coaching these boys, I wanted to give them the best opportunity possible to be up in the medals. In 2017, at the last long-distance championships, New Zealand came sixth in the J19 men’s race.”

The race will be held in the sea off Mooloolaba, Queensland, with a race distance of 24 kilometres for both men and women in the J19 division.

“Our girls are strong in sprinting and long-distance racing,” Campbell said.

“A lot of them have paddled in the open women’s division in the Kaiarahi Toa team with me, so we feel they have enough nous to put pressure on teams and feature strongly in their division.”

But for the J19 men, the opportunity to have nearly four weeks in Tahiti training under the guidance of Mario Cowan was like waka ama gold.

“He was the coach of Team Shell Va’a, who have a powerful legacy behind them in open-ocean racing,” Campbell said.

Team Shell Va’a were finalists in the team section of the 2018 World Paddle Awards. Last year they won the Hawaiki Nui 128-kilometre, three-day marathon in Tahiti and the 42-mile Molokai Hoe title in Hawaii, an event with over 1000 entries. Their victory in the Molokai Hoe was their 11th in 13 years.

Information on the World Paddle Awards website said team members worked all day at the Shell Petroleum Fuel Depot in Papeete, and in turn were in the company paddling team. “Training tirelessly every morning and afternoon, they are on the ocean paddling relentlessly when they aren’t working out at the gym or running up a mountain,” the awards website said.

“Outrigger canoeing, also known as va’a, is the national sport of Tahiti, site of the annual Hawaiki Nui race, an extreme three-day event covering almost 130 kilometres and four islands. This traditional marathon dates back to pre-European times, when Polynesians used the va’a for fishing, transporting families and food supplies, discovering new lands, and other daily activities.”

Campbell said the J19 Horouta teams representing New Zealand had enjoyed significant community support. The Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) and Downer New Zealand had been particularly supportive, and the paddlers were ambassadors for the Moananui component of Te Ha 1769-2019 Sestercentennial Trust’s commemorations.

“When Te Ha have initiatives on and around the water, our teams will assist,” she said.

“They are positive leaders in the community.”

At the world championships in Mooloolaba, the J19 women will race on Monday, August 12, and the J19 men will race on Wednesday, August 14.

• Mareikura Waka Ama Club members Raipoia Brightwell and Beverley Murray will be steering for crews who earned the right to represent New Zealand in the senior master (50-plus) and golden master (60-plus) divisions respectively.

In the long-distance nationals, Brightwell paddled for a team who raced under the Ruamata club name.

Murray competed in a crew entered by the Tauranga Moana Outrigger Canoe Club but comprising two paddlers from Auckland, two from Tauranga, one from Wellington and herself.

FOUR weeks training in Tahiti with one of the world’s top coaches of long-distance waka ama champions could bear fruit for a team of young Gisborne paddlers as early as next week.

The Horouta J19 men’s team Baby Heli’s are New Zealand’s representatives in their age group at the world long-distance championships on the Sunshine Coast next week. They qualified by winning their division at the long-distance nationals in Auckland in April, as did Horouta J19 women’s team Hinetoa.

National elite women’s sprint coach Kiwi Campbell coaches both squads, and felt the men would benefit from time spent in Tahiti with retired coach Mario Cowan, who guided the fortunes of distance racing champions Team Shell Va’a.

“We feel confident that our J19 men can foot it with the best of their age group in the sprints,” Campbell said.

“But we have a gap when it comes to marathon racing on the world stage. When I took on the job of coaching these boys, I wanted to give them the best opportunity possible to be up in the medals. In 2017, at the last long-distance championships, New Zealand came sixth in the J19 men’s race.”

The race will be held in the sea off Mooloolaba, Queensland, with a race distance of 24 kilometres for both men and women in the J19 division.

“Our girls are strong in sprinting and long-distance racing,” Campbell said.

“A lot of them have paddled in the open women’s division in the Kaiarahi Toa team with me, so we feel they have enough nous to put pressure on teams and feature strongly in their division.”

But for the J19 men, the opportunity to have nearly four weeks in Tahiti training under the guidance of Mario Cowan was like waka ama gold.

“He was the coach of Team Shell Va’a, who have a powerful legacy behind them in open-ocean racing,” Campbell said.

Team Shell Va’a were finalists in the team section of the 2018 World Paddle Awards. Last year they won the Hawaiki Nui 128-kilometre, three-day marathon in Tahiti and the 42-mile Molokai Hoe title in Hawaii, an event with over 1000 entries. Their victory in the Molokai Hoe was their 11th in 13 years.

Information on the World Paddle Awards website said team members worked all day at the Shell Petroleum Fuel Depot in Papeete, and in turn were in the company paddling team. “Training tirelessly every morning and afternoon, they are on the ocean paddling relentlessly when they aren’t working out at the gym or running up a mountain,” the awards website said.

“Outrigger canoeing, also known as va’a, is the national sport of Tahiti, site of the annual Hawaiki Nui race, an extreme three-day event covering almost 130 kilometres and four islands. This traditional marathon dates back to pre-European times, when Polynesians used the va’a for fishing, transporting families and food supplies, discovering new lands, and other daily activities.”

Campbell said the J19 Horouta teams representing New Zealand had enjoyed significant community support. The Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) and Downer New Zealand had been particularly supportive, and the paddlers were ambassadors for the Moananui component of Te Ha 1769-2019 Sestercentennial Trust’s commemorations.

“When Te Ha have initiatives on and around the water, our teams will assist,” she said.

“They are positive leaders in the community.”

At the world championships in Mooloolaba, the J19 women will race on Monday, August 12, and the J19 men will race on Wednesday, August 14.

• Mareikura Waka Ama Club members Raipoia Brightwell and Beverley Murray will be steering for crews who earned the right to represent New Zealand in the senior master (50-plus) and golden master (60-plus) divisions respectively.

In the long-distance nationals, Brightwell paddled for a team who raced under the Ruamata club name.

Murray competed in a crew entered by the Tauranga Moana Outrigger Canoe Club but comprising two paddlers from Auckland, two from Tauranga, one from Wellington and herself.

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