Whaingaroa Whānau Hoe Waka team Nekeneke powered into first place in the M2M coastal race in Tauranga last weekend.
Open to six men and women per Waka Ama team, 18 canoes battled it out for the Strongarm Power title in the 32km race, starting at Maketu with the finish line at Pilot Bay in Mt Maunganui.
In rough conditions, Nekeneke – Dave Cameron, Aaron Kereopa, Si Nguyen, Sean Dillon, Murray Clear and Simon Longdill – surprised race director, Paul Roozendaal, as they snuck up the inside with just 4km to go.
“It was exciting to watch as the three leading teams all chose different lines. Nekeneke paddled a smart race and it paid off,” Paul says. “It’s great to see them get their best result in one of the most technical races. The wind and swell were the most challenging I have seen in any race in New Zealand for a long time.”
The crew say steerer Aaron’s inside knowledge added to their paddling arsenal, having competed nine times in the solo James Bhutty Moore-morial Race held annually in the same location.
Team captain, Dave Cameron, says safety is paramount and the teams capable of paddling in the surf-like conditions are approved by the competition organisers.
“It provides more of a challenge in the rough conditions, and a greater level of competition.”
Used to extreme conditions, Nekeneke train in Raglan through rain, wind, hail and big swells at least three days a week throughout the year.
Completing the race in just over two hours, 20 minutes, Aaron says the first half was fun but conditions proved challenging in the second half of the race.
“It was surf pretty much the first hour but the conditions started mixing up in the last half of the race.”
Dave says over the last year Nekeneke has developed some depth in the team, with plenty of good paddlers to pull a team together for the various competition around the country.
“We’re punching above our weight out on the water.”
Walking away with the major prize sponsored by Strongarm, the crew will now be kitted out with a new race tee emblazoned with their own custom design.
Although mainly self-funded, the club is thankful to the support of Raglan Surf Emporium for team uniforms.
And not forgetting the shore-bound crew, Team Nekeneke are grateful for the support from their whānau.
The crew are looking forward to helping host and racing in the Whaingaroa Hoe 2018 on Saturday, May 19 in home surf. The race draws a large number of waka ama crews to Raglan to compete in 8km and 24km races.
Great for cardio, stamina, strength and mental fitness, Whaingaroa Whānau Hoe Waka is keen to sign up new paddlers of any age with an interest in waka ama – contact Dave on 022 074 1215 or check out their Facebook page Team Nekeneke.