Photo: Nakita and Richard at waka wānanga.
A Tauranga family has become thoroughly immersed in the world of waka ama after mum Nakita Te Huia and dad Richard Angell did a Certificate of Waka Ama Level 4 course last year at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
They and four of their children – aged 13 to seven – have all taken up the paddle in a big way, including:
- joining their local waka ama club Hoe Aroha Whanau o Mauao
- Richard and some of the kids competing in the waka ama sprint nationals this year
- Nakita and Richard committing to a Level 5 course this year.
“It’s great to see a couple and their wider whānau fall in love with the sport,” says Maraea Nikora, the coordinator of the waka ama programme in Tauranga.
Nakita and Richard took to competition like the proverbial ducks to water, winning a raft of Level 4 trophies at the national, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa-organised Waka Wānanga event in Rāhui Pōkeka (Huntly) last year.
Maraea says the children saw how excited their parents were by waka ama, and how well they were doing, inspiring them to also become involved. Richard and three of the children subsequently competed in the sprint nationals at Karāpiro in January.
Nakita says she was attracted to the Level 4 course after trying waka ama out at a club night, and she then convinced Richard to join her on the course.
“Nakita forced me into it. Best decision ever,” says Richard.
He says he really appreciated the people on the course. “We gained whānau.”
His partner agrees wholeheartedly: “We've made lifelong friends turned whānau through the year.”
They add that the monthly learning weekends away from the children were great for couple time.
On the learning front, Nakita says she really appreciated the range of experience other tauira (students) and facilitators brought, giving her a “massive library” of information.
“Every single one was different and I got to pick and choose which parts suited me best.”
Richard says he really appreciated the way the course has deepened his engagement with Māori culture.
“Because I was raised in an urbanised whānau, for me it was a simplified and more approachable introduction into Te Ao Maori that I was in search of.”
The whānau is keen to keep improving and competing in waka ama, with Richard aspiring to competition at “the highest levels”, most likely as a solo paddler.
What do they say to others thinking of doing a course?
“Just do it,” says Nakita. “Even if you have to go alone. You won’t regret it…best thing we ever did.”
Richard, a very busy tradie, says he had no issues completing the course mahi and encourages others to get aboard the waka. “This mahi empowers you like going home does, gives your wairua a boost.”
The Level 4 course covers subjects like:
- Māori nautical history
- traditional and contemporary waka
- waka construction
- weather interpretation
- Coastguard Boating Education Day Skipper qualification
- tikanga, karakia and waiata
- water survival competency
- event management
- health and nutrition.