Ray Timihou was honoured when he discovered that he and his “better half”, Kelley Korau would be traveling to the 2017 Matson Vaka Eiva tournament after winning the “Good Sorts” ASB bank award.
It was awarded to him in recognition of his work as a coach with the Hei Matau club in Rotorua, helping teenagers channel their energies into paddling,
“I had just been helping out children through Waka Ama (New Zealand outrigger canoeing),” Timihou said yesterday, the day before the couple departed the island.
“Whatever it be, from food to a bed. We take them to school, they stay on the weekends and holidays because their parents are busy working, or they’ll just hang at our house.”
Korau said that the parents of the children nominated her partner for the award, and that made it all the more special.
His prize was a contribution of $3,000 to help send his girls’ junior team to a tournament and a luxury trip to Rarotonga for this year’s Vaka Eiva.
Timihou also happens to have been a part of Vaka Eiva history, as he was a member of the only New Zealand men’s team to have won Vaka Eiva.
“That was team ‘Good Year’, and we won the 18km, won the 500m sprint and then we won the around the island race in 2006,” he said.
“It feels really good to come back for a holiday, rather than racing.”
He also got back into a canoe on Saturday, the opening day of the 2017 competition, although his V6 crew were particularly affected by the challenging conditions.
“Their canoe filled up with water, which was unfortunate, because they were giving the locals a good run for their money,” Korau said.
“The splash guard broke off, so there was nothing to stop the water from coming in.”
Despite the potentially dangerous situation, Timihou said that he wasn’t worried, as he trusted the paddlers would be able to get the water out. Team Kina eventually came in third place in the open men’s section, with one paddler frantically baling out the water.
“It just meant (we had) five paddlers instead of six,” he laughed as he reflected on the situation.
“But, I think that they have a chance of taking it out this year.”
Although their stay on Rarotonga was short, Timihou and Korau plan to return very soon. However, next time they plan on bringing a few extra travellers.
“The next time we come back here to race; we want to bring all the young ones that I coach.
“Vaka Eiva is fantastic, because you just get more bang for your buck. There’s really strong variety in the racing, there’s lots of it and there are also days off so that you can get up to a bit of sightseeing.”
In the meantime, the pair are heading back to New Zealand, where Timihou will continue his routine of getting up at 5.30am for waka training, and having another training session at 4pm the same day.
“Where we live, we live right on the lake. Our front yard is a reserve where all the wakas are, and then there’s the lake,” Korau said.
“People wonder how he does it (the training sessions), but we feel we are really lucky.”
- Conor Leathley/JH