A fun and relaxed approach to the sport has reaped rewards for Greer Morley – one of the star performers at the 2021 NCZT New Zealand Canoe Sprint Championships earlier this month.
The 16-year-old North Shore Canoe Club harvested no less than nine national medals including six golds in the U16 and U18 division – highlighted by the U16 and U18 K1 500m double – on Lake Karapiro.
It was some regatta for Greer, who earlier this week earned selection on the Asia Pacific Sprint Team list and is currently featuring in crew boat trials for the Junior World Championships in Cambridge.
“I was really stoked by my performance,” said Greer of her efforts of 2021 Nationals. “We hadn’t raced since Blue Lake 2 and I’d made quite a lot of improvements over the past six months. I didn’t have too many expectations, and it was it only on the encouragement of a friend I decided to enter the U18 events.”
Greer’s introduction to kayaking was a little different. A sports enthusiast, it was the family friend, former New Zealand kayak squad member, Britney Ford, who recommend she join the North Shore Canoe Club.
Curious to experience the sport she went along to Lake Pupuke aged 13 in 2018 and sat in a kayak for the first time.
“I definitely fell in (the water) a lot to begin with,” says Greer. “I went down the club once or twice a week but it was only the following summer I got more into it. I recall really enjoying the experience of competing in my first regatta at Blue Lake. The sport is such a good environment to be in.”
Under the coaching guidance of Gavin Elmiger she has gradually progressed. Taking the sport more seriously over the past year-and-a-half she has moved from featuring in the afternoon sessions with the more junior paddlers to jumping in the morning sessions with the more senior group.
Training eight to nine on water sessions a week – from the middle of last year she introduced a weekly gym session into the programme, however she explains it is the role Gav plays that has been instrumental in her success.
“He’s amazing, so supportive,” explains Greer. “He makes training not so serious, it is fun and I really enjoy it. It is not so much about the competitive side but he is looking to develop me in the future.”
At the 2020 New Zealand Championships, Greer won silver and bronze medals in the U16 K4 500m and 200m, respectively and finished 6th in 7TH the K1 events 200m and 500m finals but was no world beater.
However, at Blue Lake 2 in December she started to emerge as an athlete of rich promise, grabbing four gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
And then at nationals she stepped up another notch by mounting the podium on no less than nine occasions.
So what does she feel contributed to her breakthrough success at 2021 nationals?
“There has been a combination of factors,” she says. “Gav has worked a lot with me on technique, which has helped me improve and it has added a lot more distance per stroke and that extra work in the gym has helped too.”
Encouraged to enter the U18 K1 500m at nationals by North Shore team-mate and good friend Tara Vaughan (see image of the two them above) – with whom she won gold medals in the U18 K2 200m and 500m events – proved a huge stroke of inspiration.
But how did the body cope with taking on the U16 and U18 K1 500m gold medals in less than a two-hour period?
“Thankfully, I had no semi-finals and that made a huge difference, I wasn’t so tired. I did not have too many races on the Saturday – only four!”
Sensibly coached and still at an early stage of her development, Greer is also keen to have balance and variation in her sporting experiences. An active member of the Mairangi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club – which she joined after taking up kayaking – and a touch rugby player at Carmel College she adds: “It is a good to have that variety, so you don’t get sick of one sport.”
In kayaking she particularly enjoys the “challenge” of the 500m distance with the ultimate long-term goal to make a national high performance squad.
A squad which is very visible to Greer as the women’s national squad are based down at her training base at Lake Pupuke.
“It is so good they train out of the North Shore club and I get to be around them most days,” explains Greer. “Lisa (Carrington) is amazing, such a big inspiration. It is so nice and lovely to chat to them down at the lake.”
Yet Greer wisely refuses to look too far ahead and simply focuses on the here and now and her passion for paddling.
“I love that feeling of being out in the water with such good mates,” she explains. “It is an amazing experience and every day is pretty spectacular. I would encourage anyone to try it as a means of improving fitness, and to make some new mates. It would be amazing if everyone could experience the kayaking culture.”
Words: Steve Landells
Images: Georgia Schofield