A recent grant from NZCT to the Ruamata Waka Ama club will provide more opportunities for paddlers in the Rotorua area.
The $30,000 grant will enable two new six-man waka to be bought, increasing the capacity of the club to offer both social and competitive paddling to club members and the wider community.
“This funding is hugely important,” says Ruamata Club Chairman Heeni Hope. “The new waka will mean we can get more people on the water. Our club members were very excited about the news that our application was successful.”
Waka ama is a popular sport in the Rotorua community. There are four waka ama clubs in and around Rotorua, as well as several kura/schools which have taken to the sport. The Ruamata club hosts a series of races called Te Rotohoe, which takes paddlers to Lakes Rotoma, Te Rotoiti, Tarawera and Rotorua that is attended by paddlers from around the country. Rotorua has also hosted the National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships in 2018 and 2019 on Lake Tikitapu.
“We have about 300 paddlers on our club register, with about 100 being competitive, all-year-round paddlers,” says Heeni. “The numbers of active paddlers increase over the warmer months. We are constantly looking at new ways to cater for the members of our community who are looking to start paddling, while also accommodating our competitive paddlers' needs.”
The sport can be enjoyed by all ages. The youngest competitive paddlers at the Ruamata club are six and seven years old, but paddlers as young as five participate out of competition. The club has a strong field of paddlers that are Masters (40-49 years old) and Senior Masters (50-59 years old). There are also several competitive and social paddlers who are Golden Masters (over 60 years old).
Ruamata also has a proud winning tradition with national and world champions calling the club home. Its paddlers regularly compete at international events, such as the Moloka'i Crossing in Hawai'i, Vaka Eiva in Rarotonga and the Tahiti Aito.
“Waka ama is for some a sport, and for others a way of life,” says Heeni. “Not only is it important for oranga tinana (physical health) but also to our oranga ngākau and oranga whānau (emotional and social/family wellbeing). Whānau in our club frequently paddle together, and our waka are also used at marae and iwi events. Waka ama is important to us as it is something that keeps us connected to our past waka traditions and places.”
“It has been a very positive experience with NZCT. We are encouraged that they also see the benefits of waka ama and supported our tono (request) to fund two new waka for our club. Kāore i ārikarika ā mātou kupu whakamihi ki a NZCT.”