Fourteen paddlers from Rangaunu Sports Club, north of Kaitaia, were among the five Kiwi waka ama clubs who took part in the Gubbi Gubbi Junior Waka Ama Sprints in Mooloolaba, Australia.
The three-day regatta, which ran from September 29 to October 2, was held at Lake Kawana and was a "very relaxed event" targeting junior paddlers from under-12s to under-19s, Rangaunu coach Hilda Halkyard-Harawira said.
One of the first difficulties faced by the Far North paddlers was learning how to handle the light Tahitian waka used in the event. "Next time we venture overseas we need to cater for the 40kg weight difference of their Mirage or Bailey canoes from our Mahimahi design," she said.
In the day one W1 races, every paddler was given the choice of racing in a ruddered or non-ruddered event, with several of the Far North paddlers making the finals. Day two saw the J16 and J19 team events, with Rangaunu's Niwa Lakers winning two silvers in the under-16s, and a silver and bronze in the under-19 division.
W2 events on day three were the first time some had raced two-seaters. After two waka overturned, Ms Halkyard-Harawira overheard the commentator saying: "Them Kiwi girls like our water but they need to watch out for them bullsharks."
The Rangaunu teams who competed in Australia were the Niwa Lakers (Ariana Smith, Shavaun Wawatai, Caroline Popata-Boynton, Te Reinga Patuwairua, Jesarna Murray and Fetuao Fa'avae) and Niwa Girls (Zane Heta, Edwina Popata-Boynton, Kalaia Heta, Hine-Mihiata Kingi-Waiaua, Ripeka Parangi and Pani Trent). Thirteen-year-old Te Haerenga Mai Walker paddled for the Mooloolaba Two J14 team, and Redcliffe under-18 league player Kahi Harawira paddled for Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Ngati Kahungungu ki Waiora.