Para paddling duo off again on international medal hunt

Another overseas “adventure” awaits Raglan West para paddlers Christine Walters and Wayne Trott, who are on course to represent New Zealand at the International Va’a Federation World Sprint Championships in Britain this August. 

The pair will be part of a 12-strong para team made up of waka ama competitors like themselves who swear by the sport of outrigger canoeing as beneficial both physically and mentally to their recovery from long-term injuries.

They will be competing in three team and two single races each. Wayne will also race with other para entrants in a master men’s team in the club sprints, competing in three distances.   

Christine and Wayne have twice brought back IVF medals from Tahiti – two silvers from the world distance champs in 2017, when they were new to outrigger racing, and two golds and two silvers from the world sprint champs a year later.

And while they never got to compete in a third IVF world champs in Hawaii in 2020 – the event cancelled because of Covid-19 – Wayne was in the medals again last year when he was part of the Whaingaroa open mixed team which won gold at the Waka Ama Long Distance Nationals in Picton. 

“It’s just another adventure for us,” the 59-year-old grandfather of nine who’s lived most of his life in Whaingaroa, told the Chronicle. Nevertheless he was clearly excited at being selected to represent New Zealand on the other side of the world, and be part of the para team again.

Wayne is currently training in a V1 ‘Tai Tahi’ – designed and built locally by Conan Herbert – which is on loan to him because, he explains, this is an exact copy of the waka used for single races at the worlds this year. 

Moulds are sent overseas to be built to the specific design, Wayne adds, to ensure an even playing field. “Then it comes down to your ability.” 

Christine too – who at 54 and, like Wayne, has never been to the UK – is super-excited six weeks out from the big event, but admits that training camps at the likes of Okere Falls near Rotorua have been hard work from which it  takes a couple of days to recover. 

She is unable to bend one leg  because of having no knee after a motorbike accident with Wayne 34 years ago.  So not only must Christine paddle with that leg outstretched but she also has less paddle power because the large latissimus dorsi muscle from the shoulder area was removed years ago to fill her knee cavity.

Wayne – who has a below-the-knee prosthetic which makes walking “hard to do” –  was coaxed into the sport by local carver-cum-paddler Aaron Kereopa who has supported him with his paddling over the years.

Wayne in turn encouraged Christine into the sport, and the couple have never looked back.

“It’s an awesome sport, culture and camaraderie to get into, as well as an opportunity to see different places around the country (and the world),” says Wayne. “There’s some beautiful spots, and you meet people who are passionate about fitness and health.”

Financially the couple are stoked with assistance from both the Raglan Lions Club and LJ Hooker Real Estate. “We are getting there slowly and would be grateful for any support from the community to help us out via a Givealittle page,” says Christine.

Also racing in the world sprints – at Dorney Lake in Windsor from August 8 to 16 – will be locals Conan Herbert and 16-year-old Kaitawhiti Kereopa.