This weekend, Masterton will welcome waka ama teams affiliated to Hoe Tonga for the Regional Sprint Championship.
This premier annual sprint event will determine the regional champions who will go on to compete at the 2024 National Waka Ama Championship held at Lake Karāpiro in January.
This event will host competitors from a range of ages and backgrounds, including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa tauira, Terina Rimene, who studies the Level 4 Certificate in Waka at the Masterton campus, alongside fellow tauira, Gareth Wheeler.
“I’ve been doing waka ama on and off for around 10 years. I thought that studying waka would be a good way for me to immerse myself in te ao Māori. It’s been like the next stage for me in my te reo learning,” says Gareth who moved to Aotearoa from Australia around 30 years ago.
Both Gareth and Terina were quick to learn that waka ama is more than just a physical sport; it reinforces the culture and tikanga of te ao Māori while also focussing on a participant's hauora.
“Right from the start of the programme there’s a focus on hauora and it’s a good reminder about regaining balance in your life. This has been a good way for me to step back, look at what I’m doing and see what’s important to me,” says Gareth.
It was Terina’s daughter that inspired her to study waka, saying, “I chose to study waka to gain more knowledge to help my daughter.”
Terina chose to study waka at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa so she could learn from the kaiako who also coaches her daughter's team.
The programme has given her the skills required to support her daughter, but it’s also opened the door to new opportunities for Terina. On top of her fulltime mahi and study, Terina is now also volunteering as co-manager for a local women’s waka ama club and the intermediate girls' crew, and they have already pulled together two open women’s teams.
Studying waka has also afforded Gareth and Terina the chance to connect with other tauira and be a part of a community that they can draw support from and grow alongside.
“There’s great whanaungatanga and each of us come from different walks of life. It’s been humbling and I feel privileged to be welcomed in and be a part of this cohort,” says Gareth.