Waitohi waka will be a spectacular sight

Ngā kaihoe o Aotearoa-Paddlers from throughout the country will gather in Waitohi/Picton this weekend when the 2021 Waka Ama Long Distance Nationals are staged in the waters of Totaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound.

Approximately 850 of the nation’s top waka ama paddlers have registered and they, along with their supporters and whānau, will converge on the seaside town for one of the largest events on the Waka Ama NZ racing calendar.

The long distance nationals (LDNs) will be staged on Friday and Saturday, April 23-24, with Sunday labelled a reserve day in case of weather interruptions.

Highly-competitive racing is assured with over 46 W6 waka expected to line up along Shelly Beach before setting off in one of Saturday’s races, making for a spectacular sight for those lining the shore.

Competitors’ ages range from 14 to 70 plus and will race in a variety of categories – namely rangatahi/youth, female, male, mixed and adaptive.

Races will be three out-and-back courses, 10km, 16km and 24km, all starting and finishing level with the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club.

On Friday races will begin at 8am, 11:30am and 1.30pm, weather permitting. The following day competition starts at 8am, 11am and 2pm.

The various courses will see the paddlers round the Snout, then head into Waikawa Bay and, for the longest event, on to Whatamango Bay.

Spectators are welcome but, due to the amount of people attending, there is no parking in Picton Marina. Parking at Memorial Park Reserve is for event competitors bringing waka and supporters. It will be a key area for rigging of waka ama and safety checks.

Members of the public are most welcome, merchandise and kai stalls will be on site. The organisers recommend the public park in town and walk over the Coathanger Bridge to Shelley Beach.

Viewing spots can be had from Shelley Beach, Bobs Bay Track, Snout Track, end of the Snout, Domain Lookout and Karaka Point. This event is hosted by Te Waka o Aoraki in conjunction with Waka Ama NZ. It has received tremendous support from many of the marine community and organisers appreciate the generosity from the local community.

Now one of the fastest growing sports in the country, waka ama is steeped in the powerful history and traditions of waka sailing and voyaging throughout the Pacific. It has been described as “not just a sport, but also a vehicle for identity, pride and community”.

As part of the Long Distance Nationals, Hinemoana, a traditional waka hourua (doubled hulled) voyaging canoe from Kawhia Moana, will be supporting the event.

Hinemoana will also feature in the opening ceremony on the morning of April 23 along with local iwi waka tangata Te Ātiawa o te waka a Māui and Ngāti Kuia Iwi Pākohe. This will be the largest waka ama event ever held in Te Waipounamu.

Race director Mike Beech says, “We are blessed that the nationals are coming to Waitohi/Picton.

“We hope to show off our beautiful backyard to the nation’s paddlers and they can enjoy our little piece of paradise during this event.

“Through our amazing committee we have put in the serious mahi to make this event happen and appreciate immensely the generous support from our Waka Ama community, our sponsors and our wider local community. Cannot wait for race time.”

CAPTION: A group of waka power out of Picton Harbour during a winter quad series, contested among the four top of the south clubs. Photo supplied