Aotearoa New Zealand junior paddlers race in Vaka Eiva. HARVIE ALLISON/23113010
In very testing conditions, local and Aotearoa New Zealand junior paddlers hit the water on Wednesday afternoon in the Vaka Eiva Junior 6km course which saw eight canoes head out from Avarua Harbour to the Club Raro buoy turnaround back towards the Avatiu Harbour, and back to the start.
The Ngakau Toa Vaka Junior U16 women’s world champion
crew dug deep battling the waves and the wind racing in first place.
These Under 16 girls came back from the August 2023
International Va'a Federation World Distance Championships in Samoa with the
Vaea Melvin, their coach was elated at their Vaka Eiva
“They have put in so much work this whole year,” she
“This is also good preparation for their Round
Rarotonga race today – their first attempt as a team.”
Melvin was also excited for their younger Under 14
“Just watching those little champs crossing the line,
you could see that they had given
everything they had in the race and it just makes me so proud of them – the
true spirit of Ngakau Toa Aito.
On behalf of the U16 team, paddler Pourie Kaina the
race was spectacular.
“It was good to see more paddlers around our own age,
and being able to compete with them, in our own waters,” said Kaina.
She said they were honoured to receive a haka from
their paddling brothers and sisters, all the way from Aotearoa, who are
participating in Vaka Eiva.
“We are also extremely proud to see that all of the
hard work and dedication that the juniors have done this year has paid off.
“It’s also good to know that the future of the Cook
Islands paddling is very bright,” said Kaina.
Thirteen-year-old Isabelle Dun participated in the
Ngakau Toa Babes J14 team which also competed in the J16 course.
Dun said they did experience some confusion at the
start but they came through and received a lot of encouragement.
“The wind was challenging and blew some of our caps
off but we kept going.”
Te Tupu O Te Manava’s Under 14 coach Emilene Taulu-Amo
was very proud of her juniors.
She said “This is their first Vaka Eiva, they did
their best out there and gave it a go and I hope it’s not the last.”
Master paddler Serena Hunter is Te Tupu O Te Manava
Under 16 Girls coach.
Prior to the race Hunter had said to the girls “this
is likely the roughest ocean race you will encounter as juniors.”
She said even some of the adult teams have struggled
in the testing conditions this week.
“All the juniors did so well out there on Wednesday,”
“It was awe-inspiring watching from the coast - all
the junior crews battling upwind in those waves, and then turning and getting
rides on some pretty big swells.”
“I’m a very proud coach (and mother), it’s a highlight
of my Vaka Eiva.”
Hunter has coached these girls for three years and
feels “so proud” of their progress and that they are able to get out there and
battle the elements by themselves.
“All the junior teams can be very proud of their efforts
yesterday, and also the coaches,” said Hunter.
Twins Isabella and Milla Nicholas and Reva Hunter
(Serena Hunter’s daughter), were part of Te Tupu’s U16 Girls crew.
Hunter said Isabella has come a long way in learning
how to steer, “it takes a lot to have the courage to steer in rough conditions
especially, and she’s doing very well.”
Isabella said paddling against the Ngakau Toa U16
world champs was great.
“They definitely are a big challenge and they really
pushed us compared to previous years, our girls were all feeling our push and
working at it,” said Isabella.
Although there were big swells and rough conditions,
Milla said they all “pushed” through talking to each other, “and the atmosphere
was just awesome.”
Reva Hunter also enjoyed the experience, “it was good
to race against teams from overseas so we really did push ourselves, there were
big waves but some good surf too,” she said.
V6 Junior 16 Mix Iron 6km race results are as follows:
1st Ranginui - Te Wharekura o Mauao, Ngawiki 44.40; 2nd
Ngakau Toa Vaka Mixed – Ngakau Toa Vaka, Cook Islands 45.26; 3rd
Pikirangi - Te Wharekura o Mauao, Ngawiki 45.27; 4th Te Vaerua - Te
Wharekura o Mauao, Ngawiki 47.35.
V6 Junior 16 Women 6km race results: 1st
Ngakau Toa Vaka - Cook Islands, 41.49; 2nd Team Tiare – Te Tupu O Te
Manava, Cook Islands, 45.00; 3rd Ngakau Toa Babes J14's, Cook
Islands, 46.18; 4th Te Tupu O Te Manava Juniors, Cook Islands 48.38.