The opportunity to deliver more waka ama through the Māngere campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, has new kaiako Mereana Hona excited about what she can offer.
Mereana still sees herself as a “newbie” to the waka ama scene but says she has an unrivalled dedication to the sport.
“Here is a vehicle that can accommodate all, where people can learn not only about the sport's hauora health aspects but the tikanga involved too,” she says.
As vice president of the Cook Island Outrigger committee, the proud Mataatua mum of six has immersed herself in waka ama since her children first began to paddle eight years ago. Within their respective crews they've successfully competed at regional, national and world levels too.
Mereana also manages and co-coaches a crew of 12 master women, while also managing three other crews along with their new collaborative club facility, Ngā Hau Maiangi, which is where Mereana will hold her waka ama programme.
Ngā Hau Maiangi is in Mt Wellington beside the Auckland Rowing Club at Ian Shaw Park and houses local teams Te Paerangi Waka Ama, Cook Islands Outriggers, Manukau Outriggers and Pakuranga Outriggers club, making it the largest group of kaihoe in Auckland.
“All kudos to Eru Thompson, Marie Anderson and many others for having the vision 20 years ago to build this wharewaka,” she says.
“It's whakakotahitanga at its best.”
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa first introduced waka ama programmes in 2009 and currently delivers nine programmes throughout the North Island, the majority of which begin at the start of the year.
Mereana’s tauira, already enrolled into this 36-week course of eight weekend noho, range from complete novices through to experienced kaihoe. Mereana says she’s keen to encourage more mothers to take up the sport and says there’s still more room to jump on board.
“It’s a growing sport so we need to develop people who can impart knowledge of what is associated with it,” she says.
“Water safety is a priority, as is understanding the dynamics and the history, we'll be tapping into all of that. I'm very excited about the delivery of this course because I'm a passionate hands-on person - and very competitive,” she laughs.
“It's awesome to see people realising how they can benefit from doing waka ama. Anything's achievable when you see your clubs compete and be the best in the world.”