The Horouta Waka Hoe Club received an unexpected birthday surprise at the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Waka Ama National champs this week.
The club is celebrating its 20th year this year and had its named pulled from the hat in a draw for exclusive access to a lakeside VIP tent at Lake Karāpiro for the duration of the week-long regatta.
The tent, complete with white picket fence, furnished with beanbags and stocked with drinks and snacks, caters for up to 30 people at a time and the club gets to use it exclusively until Saturday.
On the first day of competition on Monday, it was packed with midget paddlers from the club, with Team Minions jumping on the beanbags and cheering on their Team Hulk club-mates in one of the first races.
As crews returned from their races, they were welcomed back to the tent with high fives and hugs from team-mates and whānau.
Steph Te Amo-Smith from the club says it was a great surprise to learn they had won the competition and the club intended to make the most of their good luck.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she says.
“It’s huge for us to win. We’ll be rotating crews through here all week.”
The club is used to winning, taking out the prestigious Club Points trophy six times in the last seven years.
To enter the competition, people had to say what waka ama means to them.
The winning Horouta entry was: “I believe Waka Ama gives my family and me something healthy and whānau orientated to do as a whānau.”