Midgets kick off Day 1 at 2016 Waka Ama Nationals

It's day one of the Waka Ama Nationals at Lake Karāpiro.  More than 1500 teams from 65 clubs throughout the country are racing against each other.

Today was all about the midgets.  Kids under 10 years old who have been training all summer to compete at this year's national event.

Their paddles tower over them, their life jackets swarm them but there's no other place these kids would rather be.

Tū Te Wehi from Ruamatā says, "It was a good race, we tried our hardest, we paddled hard, some complaining and it was tiring."

To get here though took a lot of effort and sacrifice by these young paddlers.

Te Wehi says, "We were practising twice a day."

Chelsey Reti (Waka Tautoko) says, "We have been training for three months to prepare for this."

Atareta Pou Haereiti (Waka Tautoko) added, "Everyday we come we run to the gate and then we come back then we do exercise then after that we paddle for times then we go for a swim then we go home."

For some, it's their first time competing at this level.

Haereiti says, "When I first started I was a little bit shy then I got used to it and then I started playing with my friends."

But some came with real determination.

When asked what their goal was for this year, Tū Te Wehi said, "To win gold and then we get to go somewhere cool!"

488 paddlers are competing in the midget section this year, the biggest turn out in their 27-year history. 

A sign that waka ama is in good stead for the future.

Tomorrow we'll see more of the future paddling stars with the introduction of the Intermediate and J16 sections as well as our first gold medallists for this year with the midget finals on the water too.