Wild weather tests waka ama crews from around the country

It was all seasons in one day for the 145 crews paddling in the annual Whaingaroa Hoe Waka Ama races held in Raglan last Saturday.

Whaingaroa Hoe chair, Amber Hartstone, says the event was well received by all the participants, with many relishing the extreme conditions and action-packed racing.

Organisers have regulations they have to abide by and Amber says safety of the crews is paramount.

“We have weather limits for the event and crews have to wear life jackets and spray skirts.”

The novice and experienced crews of all ages battled strong gusts and torrential rain to paddle into top positions over the 8km and 24km courses.

Starting at the Kopua boat ramp, crews attempted to avoid the wind and were often log-jammed under the bridge. Some struck sand banks as they turned the corner heading towards the harbour mouth.

Amber says several boats flipped, but the crews are trained to deal with a capsize and support boats were never far away.

It was a tight finish in the final men’s 24km race, with local team Nekeneke Whaingaroa pipped at the post by HOT Nga Hoe Horo with only four seconds separating the two waka.

It was another close race in the novice men’s 8km race with local crew Areare Whaingaroa notching up first place in the Novice Men’s 8km division and taking a close second to Oysters Reloaded Ngati Rehia in the overall Men’s 8km division with only seven seconds in it.

Local female crew Whaia Te Tika Whaingaroa came ninth in the overall women’s 8km race and placed seventh in the junior women’s division.

Amber’s pick for top race finishes were a masters women’s team, Mixed Up Ruamata, all aged 40 plus taking top honours in the 24km mixed race and a golden masters men’s crew of 60-years plus coming in 15th out of 37 much younger crews.

Janine Jackson