Up to 600 paddlers from all over the country will converge on Raglan next month for the town’s annual Whaingaroa Hoe, taking on six local teams in outrigger canoe and stand-up paddleboarding races on the harbour. It’s New Zealand’s second biggest regatta of its type, says Whaingaroa Whanau Hoe Waka club captain Lana Hartstone, 28, who’s trained locally for the event — now in its 16th year — since she was a schoolgirl. She says the Whaingaroa Hoe is surpassed only by the nationals each January at Karapiro, which attract about 2500 competitors.
Paddlers entered in the April 17 event, she says, are coming from as far south as Christchurch and as far north as Kataia and many will use the races — which are based at Te Kopua Domain —as training for the world sprint champs in New Caledonia in May.
Waka ama is one of the world’s fastest-growing water sports with Tahiti, Hawaii and New Zealand as the top three competitors.
And it’s a great family sport too, says Lana, with everyone from grandchildren through to grandparents among the Whaingaroa club’s 70-80 members.
Included in the event for the first time last year was the stand-up paddle race in which local surfing legend Daniel Kereopa finished a close second to Rotorua’s Bernd Sommer, a former European whitewater kayak champ.
“Stand-up paddling has become very popular and we are hoping there will be more entries this year,” says Lana.
The seven kilometre stand-up course — which heads from Opoturu estuary up harbour to the Dough Boys just past Lorenzen Bay, then out to Motukokako Point and back — will also be tackled by waka competitors, including three novice women’s teams from the local club.
A longer 25-kilometre course turns just inside the bar before heading back up harbour to the Dough Boys, then on to the upper reaches and around Sugarloaf Island before heading back to the start/finish at the domain. A women’s, a men’s and a mixed team from the local club is set to compete in the gruelling paddle, which will take around two and a half hours.
All outrigger teams are made up of six paddlers, including three steerers.
Lana says Whaingaroa’s club was set up nine years ago by local enthusiasts who had previously paddled under a Hamilton club with Raglan connections, Nga Tai Whakaronga Whanau Hoe Waka. The two clubs now co-host the regatta, which receives some venue funding from Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Development Ministry.
The regatta, says Lana, is renowned among paddlers and many return year after year. “We always make sure our manuwhiri (visiting group) are well looked after with good competitive racing, good kai and prizegiving afterwards,” she adds.
Whaingaroa Hoe starts at 8.30am on Saturday April 17.