The challenge of the quick-change

Friday November 22, 2019 Written by Published in Paddling
Itirangi Pennycook, Eryka Tommy, Vaea Melvin, Jade Tierney, Natalie Kaina and Uha Reuther at training. 19111815 Itirangi Pennycook, Eryka Tommy, Vaea Melvin, Jade Tierney, Natalie Kaina and Uha Reuther at training. 19111815

Uha Reuther started paddling six months ago with Ngakau toa – now she is ready to compete in Vaka Eiva in the U16 division.


The first time she ever paddled was for a school competition called Vaka Iti where she first fell in love with the sport after moving to Rarotonga from Australia.

But her Oe vaka journey has had its challenges. “The hardest part of our trainings have been learning how to get in and out of the boat really quickly,” said Reuther.

That is a skill she and her teammates will need for the Round Raro changes races.

“Just getting used to paddling for long distances without stopping has been the hardest part for me.”

There have been plenty of funny moments too: one of the women’s paddlers was getting out of the vaka and one of her legs got stuck in the vaka and was being dragged along in the water, said Reuther.

Overall, it’s been a really great experience for Reuther and for most of the U16 girls, in this, their first time paddling as a team in Vaka Eiva.

They have been doing land training two times a week and paddling three times a week.

“We just want to enjoy ourselves and try not to lose our races.”

They are hoping to surf some rough ocean waters and make the most of their learning of the past six months.

“The stroke of your paddles and the power of it in the water is important to make sure every stroke is pushing the vaka forward.”

Ngakau Toa coach Vaea Melvin said she had a vision to grow the sport in the Cook Islands and to do this it’s been very important to focus on the youth.

“I saw a lack of youth involved with Oe Vaka, so it’s been a challenging year to balance work and training,” said Melvin.

“The sport has always been my first love, Vaka Eiva is about celebrating Oe Vaka and so it’s not always about being competitive.”

For her U16 girls team she said she is just so happy for them to finally compete and experience Vaka Eiva.

U16 girls Uha Reuther, 14, Itirangi Pennycook, 14, Eryka Tommy ,16, Jade Tierney, 15, Natalie Kaina, 16, and Lily Tierney, 14 will be paddling in the irons event for their division and some are going to join the Round Raro mix.

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