Taupō paddler on a mission to revive waka culture

updated By Bronson Perich

A former Ngāti Rānana performer is on a mission to revive waka culture in his hau kāinga. Tredegar Hall, a paddler from Ngāti Rauhoto hapū, spent Waitangi Day with his local waka ama club teaching newcomers from around the world our ancestral sport.

“One of my aspirations is to encourage our people to return to the wai, to paddle.”

Hall says in ancient times paddling was common among the people of Taupōnuiatia. However, the number of paddlers has reduced massively.

So when the request came from Nukuhau Pā (the marae of Ngāti Rauhoto) to provide waka training at the Taupō Moana Waitangi Day festival, this was the ideal opportunity.

The lashings used to create the waka hourua. Photo/File.

The club lashed two waka together to make a waka hourua. Lacking a nearby pier to launch their makeshift waka from, they borrowed the Taupō Harbourmaster's barge and tied it to a tree stump. This meant that a maximum of 12 people could go out on each trip. Before taking them out, the club members went through health and safety drills and basic waka commands.

Such was the demand from people to try waka paddling for the first time, that the club finished almost two hours later than planned. A far cry from Hall’s childhood, when in his own words, "The only sport available was rugby."

Te Manawa o te Ika a Maaui and Rerekahurangi i Tia, the two waka lashed together. Photo/File.

Waka ama is a sport that connects people from the world over to the Māori world. Hall says that about half of the Taupō waka ama club are not from Tūwharetoa but elsewhere. He explains how they infuse tikanga and kawa into the club's operations so that waka ama becomes a vehicle for teaching our customs.

“One of our major customs is that when you join our club we end each practice with karakia. I also teach the history of the ancestors of our region, especially those that came here from Hawaiiki, namely Tia, Ngātoroirangi and Kurapoto.”

Hall says the main purpose of teaching this history is to strengthen the club members’ connection to the wai so that they can truly hold the name of Taupō Waka Ama.

When he is not teaching paddlers or racing, Tredegar Hall is a protector of Taupō waterways. As Tūwharetoa Māori Trust's recently appointed Environment Co-ordinator for the Waikato River, it is his job to promote and monitor the river's health. To bring people back to the wai after a major spillage last year, Taupō Waka Ama staged the Te Hokinga ki te Wai regatta.

Taupō Waka Ama Festival video. Source/Tūwharetoa Māori Trust YouTube channel. (Used with permission)

The idea behind the regatta was that once a person is connected to the wai, they will then involve themselves in protecting it. 

“Until you’ve gone out on a waka and experienced that way, that’s when you’ve got the essence of what Taupō Moana is really about,” Hall says.