More than 800 paddlers raced in the Raglan harbour over the weekend during the annual Whaingaroa Hoe – the biggest event on the waka ama calendar bar the national championships.
The Whainagoa Hoe 2015, run by local club Whaingaroa Whanau Hoe Waka, attracted the highest number of entries in the 21 years it had been running, said Conan Herbert, the assistant race director and Raglan-based national development manager of Waka Ama New Zealand.
He said waka ama was a growing sport, and the Whaingaroa Hoe had established itself as a good event on the waka ama calendar. Raglan’s central location also helped attract good numbers.
“People know they’re going to come and have a good event and be looked after – and leave happy,” Conan said.
On Saturday alone, about 800 paddlers from around the North Island took to the harbour for the three teams events: the novice and junior 8km race, followed by the 24km women’s and mixed team race, and finishing with the 24km men’s race.
The men’s race was won by the Bhutty Boys, from Hei Matau Paddlers, while the Chrissy Herbert Memorial Trophy for the first women’s team across the line was won by a master’s team, Maketu Wahine combined, from Maketu.
The Piripi Kereopa Memorial Trophy for the men’s senior master teams was won by Waikuta, Ruamata.
The start of racing was delayed by 45 minutes due to fog, but the rest of the day “couldn’t have been better”, with good feedback from competitors about how well-run and seamless the day’s racing had been, Conan said.
On Sunday, the 16km individuals’ ocean course was moved from Manu Bay into the harbour due to the ocean conditions exceeding the event’s maximum swell limit.
Instead, about 60 men’s and women’s one-person and two-person waka set off on a course that took in the full stretch of the harbour from the bar to the Narrows, with the incoming tide and the wind making for a challenging return trip for the paddlers.
Taipa’s famous waka ama family, the Kings, came out on top during Sunday’s races. Rose King won the women’s division and brother Tupu, current NZ open men’s sprint champ, took the men’s division in a close finish with Tahitian Nohoarii Tahiata, Rose’s boyfriend.
Raglan paddlers did not feature highly in the results as members were putting their efforts into hosting a good event, although there was some good rivalry between the junior and two novice teams entered, Conan said.
Waka Ama New Zealand chief executive officer Lara Collins came to help with the weekend’s racing and had commented on how a relatively small club had put in a “big effort” to create a well-organised event.
“It wouldn’t work without a whole bunch of people from our community, volunteers and club members who have a whole lot of pride in doing a good job,” Conan said.