Clubs in lockdown

We chat to a trio of clubs about how the Covid-19 restrictions has impacted on them and how they are coping with the ongoing global pandemic.

Mana Kayak Racing Club 

Preparedness and connectivity has enabled the Mana Kayak Racing Club to emerge out of the alert level 4 lockdown status on a strong footing.

The Porirua-based club worked quickly in the rapidly evolving circumstances by communicating quickly to members to pick up their boats as the country moved from an level 2 to a level 4 status within a 48-hour period.

As it transpired, the level 4 alert precluded water-based activity but the club then responded positively to their small squad of teenage-aged paddlers by providing a comprehensive and well-balanced training programme.

“Every two or three nights we organise a Zoom meeting where we discuss training plans, divided into physical conditioning, technical development, character development and fun,” explains club coach Mark Watson. 

Running, cycling and gym exercises have been a part of the fitness regime while Mark has also introduced special challenges to test his paddlers.

“The exercises require a little thinking and co-ordination,” he explains. “They then film themselves trying to execute it. It might take some of the paddlers a little longer to execute but this is all tied into character development and respect what that person is trying to achieve.” 

Mark has also been impressed by the ingenuity shown by the paddlers – which have included homemade gym equipment such as pull-up bars, pully exercises and rudimentary ergs to work on their paddling technique.

“They have shown how to adapt and that is a very cool trait,” he explains. “The period in lockdown has taught them self-ownership and self-responsibility. It has acted as a great mental stimulus and that you can create cool innovations in your own backyard and gain real benefit from it.

“Moving forward, it shows that you don’t always need to travel far to train and you can be equally effective doing things locally.” 

Arawa Canoe Club

As the biggest club in the country, Arawa Canoe Club has long prided itself on being a leader within its community and this view has been reinforced during lockdown thanks to its communication skills and desire to engage with its 600-plus members.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the club has adopted a clear policy that all members should rigorously adhere to the government guidelines, according to Club President Stuart Clark.

Stay at home, stay in your bubble and off the water was the clear message transmitted via newsletter to its members while the Christchurch-based club also made an empathetic offer to members.

“We offered members a pro rata discount to reflect the time that they have been unable to access the club facilities during the Covid-19 crisis. The discount would be applied to their next subscription.”

Club coaches Leigh Barker and Rob Creasey have offered fitness training programmes to squad members during lockdown and now paddlers are allowed back on the water at an alert level 3, the club have launched a Virtual Race on the Avon River.

The race will start and finish at the south end of the pontoon at the Arawa Canoe Club with all entrants paddling downstream where they can opt to turn at one of several bridges and return the club.

The race is free to enter and there are no prizes but Stuart hopes the event – which will be open until the end of May – will stimulate interest among members.

“We hope it will encourage people to get out of the house and be active,” he says. “It is an opportunity to challenge yourself while making you sure you do so in your bubble and within the spirit of what we are trying to achieve as a country.”

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Hawkes Bay Kayak Racing Club

As you might expect from the 2019 CRNZ Club of the Year, Hawkes Bay Kayak Racing Club have thus far handled the restrictions associated with the Covid-19 restrictions with totally professionalism.

However, as club chairman Darren Brown concedes the 40-member club that operates out of three containers on the banks of the Clive River will face some challenges when the nation moves to an alert level two and one. 

During alert level four and currently alert level three, club coach Ben Bennett has worked hard on maintaining motivation and fitness levels with club members via regular Zoom meetings and contact via Facebook Messenger and Training Peaks.

Nonetheless, the clubs relatively limited facilities will present some challenges when potentially re-opening for business in the future.

“We will have to get the protocols in place because we have no toilet facilities, we’ll have to find a tap to wash down the boats and also put hand sanitisers in the containers. 

“For contract tracing purposes we will keep a roll of who attends each night and we’ll have to abide by social distancing. That probably is not so much of an issue on the water but on land we might have to ensure we maintain safe distances while preparing to start sessions.

Getting ready and listening to instructions will be a challenge.”

The club will also have to pay some consideration to the age of their two club coaches: Ben Bennett, who is aged in his 60s and septuagenarian Barry Coleman.

“The age of our two main coaches probably puts us in a different boat to many clubs,” he says. “If you look at the recommendations for a level two alert older people are encouraged to stay at home, so this could be a challenge. However with a new coach starting with the club, it is more likely only our junior or new to the sport paddlers will be impacted in the short term.

“We’ve kept in contact with Barry. He’s a very keen masters paddler, who loves going out on the river as it keeps him fit and motivated.

“We do have some obstacles to overcome but I’m sure as a club we’ll make the best decisions for our members within the government guidelines.”


*The above images were all taken before lockdown and in no way reflect any of the club’s attitude to the government’s strict social distancing.