Training courses for 13 to 15-year- olds new to waka culminated with the inaugural Hutt Valley Secondary Schools Junior Waka Ama competition on Saturday.
Chris Fox, who has competed at international level, is employed as waka ama co-ordinator by Port Nicholson Block Settlement, Wellington Tenths and Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trusts to lift participation rates.
She says eight secondary schools responded to her offer to run six week introductory courses out of the Hikoikoi Waka Ama club on Petone foreshore. KiwiSport and Wellington Tenths funded the programme and five other instructors helped Chris show the 108 Year 9 and 10 pupils the skills.
Saturday's regatta was buffeted by "very, very strong" northerlies but the six person school teams enjoyed trying to beat each other around a 250-metre course, Chris says.
"It was a level playing field for everyone because they had on board experienced volunteers as steerers."
While Chris hopes to run more introductory courses for other schools in the first term next year, she says there will be opportunities for keen paddlers from this year's intake to continue training at a higher level - including learning how to steer and turn for themselves.
Quite a few are keen to get up to speed for the national secondary schools sprints in March.
"There's a lot of interest in waka ama (amongst young people); waka ama is the fastest growing sport in secondary schools around New Zealand."
St Patrick's Silverstream won the boys' title on Saturday, while Heretaunga College crews took out the girls' and mixed titles. Taita College won the boys' plate final and Te Ara Whanui Kura Kaupapa the mixed race.
The winners of a chant competition, and six life jackets sponsored by Ferg's Kayaks, was Hutt Valley High School. The idea of the prize was to encourage the school to build up a stock of equipment to help more youngsters get into waka ama.
- Hutt News