Students from Tereora, Nukutere, Titikaveka, Te Uki Ou and Imanuela Akatemia are all participating in the event. They are picked up from their respective schools and travel to either Nikao or Muri Beach for an hour long training session. Those students who are studying at NCEA levels one and two earn credits just for participating.
They are taught skills such as leadership, water safety awareness, swimming, survival skills, paddling and canoe care techniques, teamwork, and knowledge of the local waters including how to read the currents and tides. The programme also promotes the importance of appreciating, respecting, and caring for the natural environment.
Cook Islands Canoeing Association secretary and event organiser Eva Allsworth is pivotal in the development of the children.
She is one of a handful of coaches who help to prepare the teens for the regatta. “I coach because I’m a passionate paddler” says Allsworth.
“It’s a blessing to be out there on the moana, paddling as our ancestors once did”, she adds. An accomplished paddler herself, she says her greatest joy comes from “seeing the kids out there learning”.
She adds that “they [the students] are naturally good at it, it’s in their DNA”.
She says that “although we are a little country and code, we always place at events”.
Last year’s overall winners were Nukutere College, who hope to once again reclaim the title this year.
However, it will be no easy feat, with schools such as Tereora chasing hot on their heels.
The students range in skill level – for some, it is their first time paddling.
However, they describe the programme as a “fun group activity” and say that it is good for “team bonding”.
The eight-week programme concludes with a regatta comprising three V6 categories and is set to be held at Nikao Beach, on April 6.