National | Sports

Calls for Aotearoa to host Waka Ama World Champs

Paddlers celebrate a win on the final day of the 2018 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals. Source: Waka Ama NZ, Facebook

After a successful week at the 2018 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals at Lake Karāpiro, paddlers have expressed their interests in Aotearoa hosting the world championships.

Former singles world champion and current coach of the Vaka Manu team of Manukau Outriggers, Brad Anderson, says he wants to see organisers bid to host the world sprint championships at Lake Karāpiro.

“I’d like to see Aotearoa host again only because I think it’ll show the world how it should be done. Whilst we understand Tahiti is the home of Va’a and home of paddling, I believe as an event they can’t match us,” says Anderson from Ngāphuhi.

Waka Ama New Zealand CEO Lara Collins, who organised this week’s nationals, says it is something her and her governing team will think about bidding for.

The next world championships will be in Tahiti this July and in Hawai’i in 2020, so the next opportunity to host the world champs would in Aotearoa would be in 2022. New Zealand last hosted in 2006.

“We probably need to decide if it’s something we want to bid for,” says Collins.

“[Karāpiro] is certainly a world class venue. So a lot of people around the world could be keen to come.”

Vaka Manu say they'd like waka ama to be part of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. 

Anderson praises Collins and her team for hosting such a successful competition this week with more than 3000 paddlers, 150 volunteers and around 10,000 spectators attending.

He says it was the best sprinting event in the world in terms of the logistical layout, including how fair the lanes were, the finish line system, the racing system and the volunteers.

“I’ve been to seven world champs now this by far supersedes anything.”

Despite the competition this week only being a national event, Collins says it was the biggest waka ama event in the world.

“For an event of the size, over the period of time, with the number of spectators and all of the races, it is the biggest in the world,” she says.

“In Hawai’i they have their sprint state championships and they have similar numbers to what we have in one and a half days. But people just go for just one race. They’re not there [racing] multiple events.”

Anderson says the world championships would be a great way to inspire tamariki to make waka ama their sport of choice.

“If we can have the worlds here, and us paddlers do well in that event, then we can only inspire our kids to keep coming through,” says Anderson.

Members of the Cook Island Outriggers Club also told Te Kāea future changes they’d like to see.

“We want waka ama to be part of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games,” says paddler Tina Kea.

Paddlers of Vaka Manu, who won multiple titles this week, say they want to compete at the games as another opportunity to travel overseas in the future.