Tainui waka ama champ follows in footsteps of tūpuna

By Jessica Tyson

Manukau Outriggers paddler Kacey Ngataki is one of hundreds of paddlers who took part in the Portage Crossing today, an event honouring the traditional route travelled by ancestor Hoturoa and the Tainui waka 800 years ago.

The day started at dawn with waka being lashed and paddlers signing in at Okahu Bay. From there, paddlers made the 28km journey together, 18km by water and 10km by land to paddle to Waterfront Reserve, Māngere Bridge.

Ngataki, 17, took out the singles race.

“This hold does hold a lot of history behind it, especially coming from Tainui waka, he says.

“It was pretty interesting, walking my canoe down a busy road. Switching from coast to coast was actually pretty cool."

Event founder and race coordinator James Papali'I says, “Kacey's a champion, from my club Manukau, a club I started with others in ‘88. So really proud of him and everybody that did this journey. We've got novices that did it as well that have only paddled for three to four weeks."

Papali'i says this year is the first time a novice and Junior 16 category has been added to the event.

“This is our 28th crossing. We did our first one in ‘92 so it’s really grown and I reckon it will keep growing as people start learning about this ancient route and that there's no other waka race like this in the world, he says.

“Educating our community about the discovery of our area and the naming of this place is essential in reminding us of the significance of Tainui waka. It is an important acknowledgement of our history.”

Meanwhile, Ngataki also has goals of his own. The young paddler recently made a new national W1 record, paddling 500 metres in 2:06.40 at this year’s Waka Ama Sprint Nationals.

“At the moment, me and my squad, Manukau, we're aiming to head to Hawai'i for the world sprints. And I’ll also be representing New Zealand in the W1 too.”