How to not flip your vaka

Friday November 22, 2019 Written by Published in Paddling
19111811: “I love the ocean and that’s why I paddle.” – Rshart Henry 19111811: “I love the ocean and that’s why I paddle.” – Rshart Henry

Cook Islands paddlers are hoping for ‘pumping and rough’ waters to put on a spectacle for all the spectators. 


Rshart Henry started paddling when he was still in school. His first time out on a single vaka, he flipped over into the water twice just trying to get to the start line.

“I flipped so many times during the race that I came second to last,” he remembers. “I didn’t even finish the race for my U19 division and that was against U16s, too.”

Ngakau Toa paddler Henry has come a long way in five years. Now 21, he no longer has to worry about flipping his vaka.

This will be his fourth year competing in Vaka Eiva in open men’s division.

Henry has been passionate about the sport for many years and there’s nothing he loves more than an afternoon paddle with his teammates.  “I love the ocean and that’s why I paddle,” says Henry.

Henry says his paddling coach Vaea Melvin has been a huge influence and has motivated him to get better and better.

“Aunty Vaea has always been so supportive to us since we were juniors. Her drive to teach the sport to the young generations is what keeps me going as an open men’s paddler.”

He explains that they share the same love for sport and if he ever stopped paddling it would feel like he was letting his coach down.

Last year, he paddled with his Ngakau Toa team and won plenty of races. But when it came to the singles he came last. and says this will be a challenge for him again this year.

However, his goal is not to win but to enjoy the experience. “I just want to enjoy the moment while it lasts, meet new people and learn about other competitions around the world.”

He has been doing a lot of water training though it’s been hard, he says, when members of team can’t make it because of so many other responsibilities. Yet a tonne of preparation has gone into paddling for Vaka Eiva.

Outside of paddling training on the water, Henry makes time to go to the gym as well.

Most importantly Henry will have to focus on his technique. The movement and paddling technique changes depending on the what the conditions are like on the water and what you prefer to do, says Henry.

“You have to be very strategic and plan, for you are going to start paddling hard and slow down a bit in the middle of the race and then pump it out really fast at the end.”

“We are hoping the water is pumping and rough, if it’s flat I don’t think anyone will be very interested,” laughs Henry.

Henry is looking forward to the competition and the best outcome for his team. 

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