Last of junior races held today at Vaka Eiva

By Rahia Timutimu

Paddlers are nearing the end of the waka ama competition in Rarotonga, with the last of the junior races held today.

It was all about the junior paddlers today in their final day of racing.  All the adult teams had the day off from racing. 
The U14, U16 and U19 paddlers raced in a 2km and 4km mini marathon as well as in the individual W1 races.

While the U16 paddlers set out to compete in the first race of the day, a distance of 4km, these U14 paddlers from Hoe Aroha Whānau o Mauao were preparing for their first race, a distance of 2km.

Hoe Aroha paddler, Emma Mokomoko, said, "I'm scared, but excited to get out on the water.  This sport is awesome!"

Her team mate Kalani Dickson said, "I'm a bit scared because the wind is blowing so strong.  The water is very choppy, it might actually flip us over!

It's been a long week for some of these students from Te Wharekura o Mauao, who raced in their final day at the Vaka Eiva.

Emma said, "It's sad that we've come to an end today.  It's also going to be sad to leave this place."

"I'd rather be here than at home in New Zealand.  It's cold there," said Kalani.

Hoe Aroha Whānau o Mauao U14s had a good start in their race.  The wind was strong again today, proving a test for the steerers to keep the waka straight.

An impressive performance throughout the race, crossing the finish line second to win silver.

Kalani explains, "In our first race on Tuesday, we didn't do very well.  But now, because we worked as a team, we came second."

The individual W1 races were also held today.  Many of the paddlers from Tu Tangi Ora took part in the U16 and U19 races.

The distance was cut from 500m to 250m because of the choppy conditions on the water.

Keegan Cooper (Ngāpuhi) said, "I think it's a good idea, it's really choppy out there.  I dont want to flip so, being at 250 it will be better and more exciting."

Overall, it was an exciting last day for the youngest paddlers of the competition, while the adults had the day off to prepare for their last races tomorrow.