Waka Ama – weaving together ancient and modern mātauranga

Issue: Volume 97, Number 6

Posted: 6 April 2018
Reference #: 1H9iFD

Participants in the sport of waka ama, or outrigger canoe paddling, can now have their skills recognised with credits thanks to a collaboration that recognises a unique blend of tikanga with sports achievement.

Every March on Lake Tikitapu just outside Rotorua teens from across the country paddle it out for top honours at the National Secondary School Waka Ama Championships. With its roots in the Pacific, waka ama, or outrigger canoe racing, is thousands of years old – tracing its origin to the Polynesian navigators – but the annual college competition marked only its 17th birthday this year.

Paddlers – or kaihoe – now have the chance to achieve credits following a collaboration between Te Wānanga O Aotearoa, Waka Ama New Zealand and Skills Active Aotearoa.

“We know our rangatahi train and fundraise all year to compete at Tikitapu. As well as learning a tradition that stretches back to the ancestors, they are learning waka ama techniques, water safety skills, financial literacy and project management. It is important this skill base be set and recognised,” said Brendon Morgan, Te Wananga O Aotearoa Kaiarahi of Waka.

“We consulted schools in 2016 and they agreed upon an approach that blended tikanga with sports achievement. This is a unique sport in that respect – Aotearoa and the Pacific is the home of waka ama and our young people who come here every year aren’t just competing, they’re exercising our heritage. We are indebted to Ruapehu College students and staff who have worked closely with us to see this become a reality.”

Toiroa Whaanga-Davies (Ngāti Rākaipaaka, Ngāti Rehua) is a Year 12 student at St Patrick’s College Silverstream. His relatively young crew travelled up to Rotorua and competed in the J19 grade.

“I enjoy waka because of the atmosphere during events. Being able to compete against some of the top in the sport shows me where I’m at and where I want to be. I enjoy the strong competition,” Toiroa says.

Waka Ama New Zealand CEO Lara Collins says: “Building a pathway for learning through waka ama has been something that Waka Ama New Zealand has been focused on for some time and it is great that so many secondary schools and students are enjoying waka ama throughout the country. It is very positive in terms of participation through competitive sport and also in helping to grow balanced and engaged youth. We look forward to more and more schools taking part in waka ama every year.”

With more than 10,000 kaihoe (paddlers) nationwide – the youngest five and the oldest 80 – the renaissance of waka ama is in full swing across Aotearoa with hundreds now preparing for world championships in Tahiti later this year.  This year’s secondary school nationals saw 116 schools from across the country take part with 1,750 students competing over 4 days.

Find out more about waka ama(external link) 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:54 am, 6 April 2018

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