Kahawai Paddling Champs proves a big hit

The Kahawai tagline of kia kaha i te wai – be strong in the water – was perfectly exemplified by all the paddlers who competed in challenging conditions at the inaugural Kahawai Paddling Championships in Tāmaki Makaurau on Saturday.

A tricky on shore breeze at Wakatere Boating Club did not deter the fun and excitement of the inaugural Kahawai paddling event – designed to develop the next generation of paddlers – as the youngsters fully embraced the event.

Supported by a number of national women’s squad members, including double Olympic champion Lisa Carrington, the paddlers competed in a series of races in the U12, U14, U16 and U18 age divisions.

The dynamic new paddling format – set up to bridge the gap between the different paddling disciplines – saw competitors race around a rectangular course and back to the finish line in contests between two to four minutes in length.

“The whole day was a really positive experience for all and played out to a fun vibe,” explains event organiser Danika Mowlem of CRNZ.

“For the younger age groups just getting around the course was a big accomplishment. Many of the kids were very nervous on the start line, but once they had finished the race they had a big smile on their faces. The enthusiasm of the parents was also a real positive and we even got the parents to join in a kids v parents race.

“It was a positive first go at the Kahawai format. We are very excited by the thought of making it bigger and better in the future.”

Among those offering their support was a group of New Zealand women’s elite and U23 paddlers led by Teneale Hatton as race director, and supported by Lisa, Alicia Hoskin, Alex Bermingham, Olivia Brett and North Shore paddler Christy Tate. NZ Squad member Lucy Matahaere added a special touch to the start of the day, briefing the paddlers on the Kahawai concept and leading the karakia. 

The women were happy to lead the pre-race warm ups, offer words of encouragement and support to the paddlers and were all more than happy to meet any photo requests from the enthusiastic participants.

Experienced broadcaster Mark Watson also brought another layer of professionalism to the event by acting as race day commentator. Lifeguards (and brothers) Grant and Reid Clancy from Piha Surf Life Saving Club provided event safety, paddling boards to help capsized paddlers back into their boats and offering coaching and encouragement to the younger ones.

Canoe Racing NZ CEO Tom Ashley said “We have been working on the Kahawai concept for over a year now, and it’s a huge milestone to run our first event. A lot of thought has gone into the format, and how we can set up Kahawai as the missing link between different paddling disciplines.”

“We are really grateful for the support we received on Saturday – it was amazing to have such a great group of paddlers and parents, and special that some of the best paddlers in the world made time to ensure they had the best experience possible.”

“Based on Saturday, we see heaps of potential in Kahawai. We can’t wait to roll the events out around New Zealand and look forward to seeing interest grow over the next seasons.”

We would love to hear your feedback on the very first Kahawai Paddling Championships. If you could express your thoughts on the experience to Danika Mowlem – danika.mowlem@canoeracing.org.nz 

For more on the Kahawai concept go here

For full results from the first Kahawai Paddling Championships go here

Images: Georgia Schofield