There's only way to describe this young paddler from Ngāti Tamaoho: Kacey Ngataki is waka ama and waka ama is Kacey Ngataki.
"I just like it," says Ngataki, "It's in my blood. My nan, my aunties, it runs in my family and I just like paddling, it's fun."
Ngataki, who paddles with the Manukau Outrigger Canoe Club has won the Auckland waka ama National Paddler of the Year Award for 2019.
Kacey Ngataki with the two awards that he won at AROCA's annual awards. Photo/file
The Auckland Region Outrigger Canoe Association also presented the 16-year-old athlete with a second award, recognising his successes on the water both here and overseas at the national awards.
The humble teenager is grateful to AROCA for the recognition but is quick to pass on the praise to others.
"I'd like to thank my parents and my coach, Mark and Kimi, and all the boys in my team."
Ngataki, who hails from Whatāpaka Marae on the Manukau Harbour, also represented Aotearoa at the IVF World Sprint Championships in Tahiti earlier this year, where he finished 7th in the V1 J16 500m final.
He says he learned a lot from his experience in French Polynesia, particularly the Tahitians' enthusiasm for the sport.
"Every second car has a roof rack, or if you see someone walking across the pedestrian with a waka is not your unusual."
He has also excelled in the longer form of waka ama this year, winning the Junior 16 division in the ruddered W1 and the rudderless W1 at the long distance nationals held in October. His W6 team, Ikale tahi also won a national title.
The James Cook High School dux ludorum says sprints are a lot more technical, "a lot more strength, power, a lot more gym-involved" and finds the long distances enjoyable.
"You go out there, have fun by yourself and enjoy it with your friends."
Next month Ngataki will be back at the national sprints in Karāpiro, but his eyes are on the long distance world championships that will be held in Australia in August next year.
"Nationals is obviously another goal but I kinda set myself a goal to make it to the world long-distance since I missed out last time. So yeah, [I've] just got to train hard and see what I can do," he says.