Happy paddlers: From left, visiting national waka ama coach Corrina Gage, Year 10 waka ama paddlers Mia Bulling, Rosa McBride, Izzy Burgess and Sophie Bulling, and coach Frances Piacun


A champion Wakatipu High netball team’s taking it sitting down this summer — but are still hoping to be competitive.

The girls — who won the Southland Year 10 champs and were 10th in the South Island champs — have taken up waka ama and are off to their first regatta in Te Anau over Labour Weekend.

The sport, introduced to Queenstown in 2014, uses traditional outrigger canoes.

Wakatipu Waka Ama Club founder/coach Frances Piacun had been keen to develop a youth programme, and asked work colleague Sally Bulling how she might enlist some Wakatipu High students.

Bulling in turn suggested her daughter Mia’s netball team might fit the bill — and the club’s new six-seater waka.

The team — comprising Mia, 14, her cousin Sophie Bulling, 14, Rosa McBride, 14, Izzy Burgess, 14, and 15-year-olds Lucia Marshall and Baylee Rapata-Fish — has been training on Lake Whakatipu twice a week.

It’s also the first time a Wakatipu High waka ama team’s been assembled.

Mia says the netballers were happy to try another sport.

‘‘We thought it would be fun to keep up our fitness and like keep the team together over summer.’’

Rosa adds: ‘‘I love it, it was really easy to pick up, and it will be really fun over summer
’cos it’s like warm.’’

Izzy sees similarities with netball in ‘‘working as a team and keeping in time with everyone’’.

Recently the girls were fortunate to get instruction from Kiwi waka ama legend, Tauranga-based Corrina Gage, who’s coached and paddled nationally and internationally.

Piacun says the girls have ‘‘just slotted in so well’’.

She’s also been approached by Whakatipu Youth Trust about coaching a Wakatipu High boys’ team.