Winners are grinners: Wakatipu Waka Ama Club's J16 crew, from left, Rosa McBride, Sophie Bulling, Mia Bulling, Baylee Rapata-Fish, Lucia Marshall, Izzy Burgess, and coach Frances Piacun, won a trophy in their first regatta


Four Whakatipu waka ama crews are making waves at a regional level.

At the second annual Labour Weekend regatta in Te Anau, all four teams from the Wakatipu Waka Ama Club took out the top spot in their races, going home with three trophies.

Coach Frances Piacun says each team took their wins ‘‘easily’’ in the rangatahi novice 5km,
open ladies 5km, open men’s 15km, and open mixed 10km events.

Remarkably, this was the J16 girls’ first regatta and they’d only been training for five weeks.

The girls, all Wakatipu High students, originally jumped in the boat when their netball season ended, wanting to find a way to keep fit.

‘‘They were quite nervous because it was the first regatta … they entered as a school team against James Hargest and Verdon College and they won so easily, it was just so wonderful to see,’’ Piacun says.

The sport’s had a ripple effect in the community, Piacun says, as she’s been approached about starting a Wakatipu High boys’ crew and an Arrowtown Primary Year 7 and 8 crew.

‘‘What I hear sort of nationally is that waka ama in secondary schools is one of the fastest-
growing sports.’’

She’s keen to see Whakatipu’s teams take it to nationals and possibly even worlds.

‘‘It’s been quite hard to get people who want to compete at that level and put in the

‘‘This is really the first year that we’ve got some really solid commitment from paddlers.’’