New research highlights benefits of waka ama

By Jessica Tyson

Researchers at Massey University have studied the benefits of waka ama and have proven that the fast-growing sport is a major vehicle for indigenous health promotion.

As part of new research from the College of Health, 16 members of a waka ama rōpu were interviewed about the social, cultural and health benefits of the sport.

Researchers Dr Christina Severinsen and Angelique Reweti of Ngāpuhi say, through a framework of Māori values and beliefs, waka ama improves the health of individual paddlers, their whānau and communities.

"It's unique as a sport because, as well as the physical benefits for paddlers, it also has a strong tikanga connecting paddlers to each other through whanaungatanga and manaakitanga,” says Severinsen.

Severinsen and Reweti carried out the research with the Heretaunga Ararau o Ngāti Kahungunu Waka Ama Rōpu based on the Clive River in Hawke's Bay.

Severinsen says the findings contribute to the evidence base of effective indigenous health promotion, bridging the gap between academia and local community action.

"The experience of waka ama is central to health development and maintenance and the kaupapa is a positive resource for paddlers to draw on."

Reweti says increased access to cultural resources through waka ama is seen as key to good health.

"Waka ama is an example of health promotion within an indigenous context, where Māori values and practices are foundational."