Single races kick off today at Waka Ama Sprint Nationals

By Jessica Tyson

Hundreds of paddlers are ready to go this morning to compete in the single races at the Waka Ama Sprint Nationals at Lake Karāpiro.

The day kicks off with the intermediate women’s 500m race at 8am with finals expected to start around 2pm.  

Aotearoa’s open men's sprint champion Tupuria King from Ngāpuhi told Te Kaea he’s excited to race today after spending months competing and training overseas.

“For the last five years I’ve been competing overseas in places like Tahiti, Hawai’i and LA, and last year was no different. I spent I think a collective number of five months in total abroad and most of that’s long distance racing.

“It is good to change things up and start training for the sprints. And it’s always exciting coming back home and race here. It’s always humbling to be home,” King says. 

So far King has won five titles in the 200m sprint and four titles in the 500m events over the years at the annual sprint nationals.

“This year [I’m] kind of looking to even up those numbers. I think I’ve focused a lot more on the 500 this year so hoping to do well in the 500 especially.”

The picturesque Lake Karāpiro is hosting over 1700 teams from 61 clubs as they participate this week in what is believed to be one of Aotearoa's fastest growing sports. 

Waka Ama New Zealand CEO Lara Collins says paddlers are hoping to succeed in the competition to qualify for the World Club Sprint Championships to be held in Tahiti in July.

“We have similar numbers to last year with 3300 paddlers competing. We’ve got crews coming from all over the country from as far north as Kaitaia down to Wakatipu in the South Island,” says Collins.

“There are going to be huge crowds lakeside watching the regatta with around 10,000 expected during the week.”

The competition will be livestreamed today from 1.50pm to 4pm on Māori Television.