Kiwi paddlers ready to defend world title

27 August 2018

The University of Auckland’s gold medal-winning waka ama paddlers are preparing to head to Hawaii this week to defend their world title.

The engineering students are scheduled to compete in the world’s largest outrigger canoe meet, the Queen Lili'uokalani Races, which begin on Thursday, August 30 and attracts some 2500 paddlers from all over the world.

Organisers have confirmed the races will go ahead after Hurricane Lane hit the islands at the weekend. Special preparations were made to safely protect equipment from tropical storm-force winds and large swells.

The Engineering Eagles have twice before won the main event, a gruelling 30km single-hull canoe race in open seas between Kailua and Honaunau bays on the Big Island.

Team member and Waka Ama veteran Dylan Taute, who has been paddling for 17 years, says the team have a great bond on and off the water and is confident they can once again win gold.

“Everyone needs to be honest in their contribution to pulling water and making the boat move, so I’m very confident going into this year’s race,” he says.

The mixed Waka Ama crew is made up of three females and three males, along with two reserves. All are students at the Faculty of Engineering. They are Georgia Naera; Billy Bowman; Dylan (Nona) Taute; Dallas Watene; Jessica Retter; Sarah Doyle; Logan McDonald; Kayla Fuemana.

Some of the paddlers only started in the sport this year, such as teammate Sarah Doyle.

“I think we should do very well as the five veterans have helped us three newcomers to improve and blend with the team,” Sarah says.

“Like most team sports a lot of the success of a waka ama team is dependent on the ability for a team to click inside and outside of the sport, and for everyone to be motivated to succeed.”

The Engineering Eagles won the all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii earlier this year by taking first place in the University of Auckland Great Waka Ama race - a 10 kilometre return paddle from Takapuna to Rangitoto Island, broken up by an 8 kilometre sprint to the summit of Rangitoto and back, against teams from the University of Auckland, AUT and the University of Waikato.

The Engineering Eagles are due to take off for Hawaii on Tuesday August 28, with the main race to take place on Saturday September 1 (US Time).


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