Ash Roozendaal (Ngāti Awa) is on a mission to win the Open Men's singles titles at next weeks National Waka Ama competition. The current title holder is Tupuria King, who has held this title for five straight years and has never been beaten by any other NZ paddler in the 500m race.
However, Ash beat Tupu at the worlds, which makes for an interesting competition come next week.
The descendant from Ngāti Awa is no stranger to the water as it's a whānau affair, both of his parents paddle. He first boarded a Waka before his first birthday.
“My first memory was when he was nine months, just putting him in the single and paddling out the Matahina dam,” says his Mother, Raanj Rapana.
From then till now the paddler from Whakatane has achieved some amazing goals, especially last year.
“I did ok at the Nationals, I placed third with Shannon Moon,” says Ash, “and then we had the worlds in Tahiti, the Elite's were good but the singles were even better, just beating Tupu King in the semis.”
Tupuria King is who he beat, the current National Open Men’s singles champion. King hasn't been beaten by anyone from NZ in the 500m race for 5 years consecutive years at the Nationals.
However at the World Sprints last year in Tahiti, Ash beat Tupu to make the final of the Open Men’s singles, the only paddler from New Zealand to make the final, however, it wasn’t a race Roozendaal had dreamt of.
“The final didn’t go too well,” admits Ash, “my handle on my paddle came off which was a bummer.”
Nonetheless, it was an achievement that made his whānau proud.
“I think everyone thought he won,” laughs Raanjs, “the way I was cheering for him you know, but I was just happy he made the final. He came last in the final but I was super happy, the final is the final at the worlds.”
“I was really proud you know,” says his Father Bevan Roozendaal, “especially in these last few years he's had some major improvements.”
But that was last year, with a new year comes new challenges and goals.
“My aim is to try and beat Tupu,” admits Ash, “we'll see what happens.”
Come this time next week we'll see if it does eventuate, with the finals of the singles held next Thursday afternoon.