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Juniors step up to challenge

Wednesday 17 November 2010 | Published in Regional

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More than 25 juniors teams are competing at Vaka Eiva this year, and one team – Te Tupu O Te Manava U19 boys – is even entering Friday’s Round Raro Race to battle it out with the big boys.

Mapu oe vaka continues to grow, a positive indicator that the sport won’t die out anytime soon.

“They’re our future,” said Teina Taulu, who has been instrumental in organising the mapu oe vaka programme. “Who’s going to replace Reuben Dearlove? They’re the next generation.”

Nine local juniors teams are competing – Te Tupu O Te Manava has an U19 boys and the U19 ‘Boiler Babes’, U16 girls, U16 boys and U14 mixed, and Ngakau Toa Vaka has an U16 boys, U16 girls and an U19 girls team, which will incorporate some Aitutaki paddlers.

Local juniors have been training hard to get muscled up and ready for Vaka Eiva. They’re ready to tackle the challenge – and most of them name Hawaii as their fiercest competitors.

Te Tupu U16 girls are mostly Imanuela Akatemia students who turned on the fire at this year’s Vaka Iti competition and took second.

Tamati Iro, 18, is a jack of all trades when it comes to oe vaka. He paddles for Te Tupu O Te Manava U19, but depending on conditions sits at either one, two or three. This year marks the first time his team will paddle in the Round Raro with open men, and he said his team’s been on the water at least twice a week for months, getting ready to take on crews from Aotearoa, Hawaii and Aitutaki.

The Te Tupu O Te Manava Boiler Babes are back again this year, shooting for the U19 championship title for the third consecutive year. For Emilene Taulu – a Boiler Babe since the beginning – it’s the last year as a junior.

The Ngakau Toa Vaka U19 girls have a strong squad this year, too – Rarotonga paddlers will mix with Aitutaki paddlers, steerer Moana Maoate among them.

Sally Hosking, who’s a versatile paddler but sometimes strokes, said that coach Vaea Melvin predicts it will be a strong team – “and I trust her judgment”, Hosking said.

Ngakau Toa U16 men have been training three times a week for months. Steerer Paerangi Vainerere started paddling in February but doesn’t feel any anxiety – instead, he’s excited about competing with his team, who have become close over the past year, he said.

Aitutaki is entering four teams. Aitutaki Aitutoa and Aitutaki Auikamoana are the junior men’s teams and the junior girls have two teams: Aitulicious and Te Mana O Utataki. Aitutaki Sting Rays are the only local junior mixed team.

Aotearoa has six junior men’s teams – King Justice, Tama Toa, Waitakere OCC, Taroa, Don’t Touch My Food and Tumutoa – and one junior girls team, Tiare Tigers. Mixed Aotearoa crews are The Young Ones and Aniawaru.

Tiare Maori is a junior girls and junior mixed team made up of New Zealand and Cook Islands paddlers, and there will also be an International junior’s crew made up of paddlers from the Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

The Hawaiian Canoe Club has three junior crews this year – boys, girls and mixed.

Juniors will start paddling on Saturday in rudderless V1 races.

U19 boys will race 12 km from Avarua to Matavera and back starting at 7.30am on Monday; Junior U19 girls race the same course at noon.

U14, U16 and U19s teams will be doing sprints on Tuesday at Muri, and on Thursday U19 crews will be racing 15km from the Avarua Wharf.

On Thursday, U14 crews will be racing km and U16 crews will be racing 6km at Muri. Te Tupu U19 boys are doing the Round Raro on Friday.

As per usual, junior paddlers will be having their own post-race party this year.

Juniors will of course attend Friday’s opening ceremony with all paddlers, but will be celebrating post-Vaka Eiva with their own separate party at the Ngatangiia clubhouse on Thursday night.

The party kicks off at 6 pm – it will be booze-free and there will be entertainment by Pacific Resort fire dancers and G-Dub on the DJ tables – and lasts right through to 10 pm. Prize-giving for junior paddlers will be at Thursday night’s party.