Culture and lifestyle add to allure of top class event

Thursday November 19, 2015 Written by Published in Paddling
Members of the history-making Ngakau Toa Vaka senior women’s team that won the coveted Pacific Paddle, the ultimate award for the gruelling 32km round Raro changes race. 15111376 Members of the history-making Ngakau Toa Vaka senior women’s team that won the coveted Pacific Paddle, the ultimate award for the gruelling 32km round Raro changes race. 15111376

PADDLING purely for the enjoyment of it has created a strong bond among the Ngakau Toa Vaka senior women’s crew, who are eager to put months of hard training to the test.

It’s a bond that is sure to see the women’s team not only have plenty of fun on the water but also feature prominently in the leading pack of paddlers on race day.

Last year the club made history in fielding the first local women’s team to lift the coveted Pacific Paddle, the ultimate award for the gruelling 32km round Raro changes race.

While defending the coveted Pacifi c Paddle may come with its pressures, the Ngakau Toa Vaka open women’s team is taking it all in their stride.

Experienced top female paddler and team coach, Serena Hunter says winning is never guaranteed.

“Every year brings new paddlers and experience so winning is never guaranteed.”

She says the goal this year for the women’s team has been enjoying paddling and bringing new paddlers into the fold.

The women’s team preparing for Vaka Eiva 2015 boasts a fit crew of experienced paddlers including Hunter and fellow national paddlers Paulina Beddoes, Joyce Fortes, Tara Cumming and Tahiti Isaka, who all competed at the Papua New Guinea Pacific Games earlier this year.

At the PNG games, the national women’s paddling team won silver in the V6 Iron race over a 20km course, while Hunter won a gold and silver in the V1 Iron and sprint races respectively.

Rising junior women’s paddling star Ioana Puna, who already has a number of international races under her belt including the prestigious singles race Te Aito, will jump into the hot seat for the round Raro changes races.

The young woman will mainly concentrate her paddling efforts in the Mapu Oe Vaka under 19 girls division races.

Joining the experienced paddlers is seasoned national athlete Sebon Will (nee Nicholas), who is better known for her feats on the national netball courts as a defender and more recently on the golf course swinging her nine-iron. The former national netballer will compete in the sprints and mixed iron races as she builds up her oe vaka skills and techniques for the big race in future  Vaka Eiva events.

There will be no issue of fitness for top female triathlete Kelly Pick, who is temporarily swapping her running shoes and swimming goggles for a paddle.

Hunter says the new paddling recruits have slotted into the crew in fine fashion.

“I’m so proud of how well they’ve taken up paddling and slotted right in with the experienced paddlers,” says Hunter - herself a national multi-codemedal winner who during one regional sports competition won a medal in triathlon and paddling on the same day for the Cook Islands.

“Especially as we’ve thrown Kelly in the deep in as our number one paddler at stroke!” adds Hunter.

Also featured in the squad is local paddler Lotu Vea who has been burning rubber up and down the infamous Hospital Hill to be in tip-top shape for the paddling festival.

Hunter says part of this year’s goal for the team was to bring in new paddlers and to get back to enjoying paddling.

“We have had some really good flexible training sessions and are feeling good for Vaka Eiva.” 

Keep your eye out for the local ladies from the Ngakau Toa Vaka club to be bringing both enjoyment and competitiveness to this year’s Matson Vaka Eiva 2015. 

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