Maitahi – stepping up to the challenge of national & international races

For a long time Maitahi Outrigger Canoe club has been seen as a predominately social waka ama club. Maitahi is still a great social club that makes new paddlers welcome and encourages participation in racing in the Top of the South region. However, more and more of its paddlers and crews are setting their eyes on national and international races.

International World Sprint championships

In 2018 we had our first paddlers take part in the IVF World Sprint Championships in Tahiti. Even though all those paddlers were paddling for different clubs (Wakatipu – Queenstown, Whakatū Marae – Nelson, Parehaka – Whangarei and Horouta – Gisborne) the hype seems to have percolated through the club. As I write this we have one paddler (Greg Buck paddling for a Wanganui crew) at World Long Distance championships in Australia this weekend.

Queen Lili’Uokalani

In 2017 and 2018 Pete Bywater competed in the Queen Lili’Uokalani Canoe Race in Kona, Hawai’i, paddling for Waitaha. This is a great international race with the choice of iron or change-over races and great events in the week leading up to the main the race. It is one of the biggest outrigger races in the world.

Long Distance Nationals & Takapuna Cup

We have had crews and singles paddlers paddling (some gaining gold medals) at various Long Distance National competitions and racing at the Takapuna Beach Cup (18, 35 or 42km; change-over and iron races) in the past. Next year the Long Distance Nationals will be in Picton so we can’t use the excuse of all the racing being in the North Island.

Waka Ama NZ< Long Distance Nationals 2016, Maithai Masters crew
On the way to gold – Long Distance Nationals

If you can’t find a crew do a two

Sometimes it’s not possible to find 6 crew members who have the time, money and motivation to train for a race. Don’t let that stop you. This year we had two OC2 womens crews competing at Long Distance Nationals in Auckland. The senior masters womens crew won bronze. The golden master womens ended up paddling in the masters womens category, but it was all a great experience.

Kilmeny and Linda going for bronze – Long Distance Nationals 2019

It’s been a while Maitahi

However, it’s been a long time since we had pure Maitahi crews paddling internationally. (In 2014 two crews competed in the Round Rarotaonga race. In 2013 a Rangatahi and a mixed crew did Rarotonga as well.)

A number of paddlers have had to move outside the club in order to find competitive teams to race with. It is hard work and expensive paddling for a crew that is outside your city and your region. However, the burst of pride you get from being in an international opening parade and ceremony, wearing the New Zealand Tshirt amongst all the other competing countries, knowing you are representing your country is just amazing and makes it all worth while.

Better still, would be to represent our own home club at these competitions. Up until now that hasn’t been an option, particularly for sprints as there has not been enough paddlers wanting to form crews. Paddlers wanting to compete have had to go outside Maitahi to get to that level of competition. That is all changing.

Maitahi crews in training for national sprints

This year we have three Maitahi crews preparing for National Sprints at Lake Karapiro in January.

  • Penny Molnar has formed a Masters 70 Womens W6 sprint crew
  • Tony Davies has formed a Senior Masters Mens W6 sprint crew. At least 3 of this crew will also be training for V1 sprints in the Senior Masters Men and Golden Masters Men categories.
  • Pouwaiwai, a Masters Womens W6 sprint crew are now paddling under the Maitahi Club banner – woohoo!

This is a very exciting development for our club who have normally only competed in long distance racing. Sprinting is an entirely different kettle of fish; a different skill set and level of fitness. Good luck to these brave crews!

Other Maitahi crews/paddlers in training:

  • a Masters Womens W6 crew who are training for the Takapuna Cup long distance change-over race in February, Long Distance Nationals in Picton at Easter and competing in the Round Rarotonga race next November.
  • a Mixed Masters W6 crew training for Long Distance Nationals and a possibility of paddling the Takapuna Cup and Rarotonga
  • 2 Senior Masters Women looking to compete at regional and national sprints in V1s
  • at least 1 Master Mens V1 paddler looking to compete at regional and national sprints in V1
  • a Masters 70 Women V1 paddler training for V1 sprints and who has joined the Ruamata (Rotorua) Masters 70 womens W6 crew for National Sprints with a view to competing in Hawai’i at the World Sprint Championships in August 2020
  • 1 Senior Master Mens V1 paddler paddling for Whakatū with a view to competing in Hawai’i at the World Sprint Championships in August 2020

Downwinders for OC1

Let’s not forget the OC1 paddlers who are preparing for the Poor Knights Crossing race in early September. Zoe, Sean, Tony, Seb, Julie and Kereama are all training hard for this gruelling downwind 30km race at Tutukaka, near Whangarei.

Seb Head competing in Poor Knights Crossong Ocean race
Seb waiting for the pickup – Poor Knights Crossing 2018

Way to go Maitahi!

I apologise if I have left anyone out, these are the crews or singles paddlers I know of at the moment. I am just absolutely delighted to see so many stepping up to the challenge of higher competition.

If you are interested in competitive racing, ask around club members or look on the Waka Ama NZ website at the events section to see what is out there. Check our What’s on Page for events. Waka Te Tasman is coming up in November and our club traditionally fields at least one novice crew. I have heard rumours of 2 novice crews forming this year. It’s an ideal race to get some experience in before our own regatta, Tuna E Hoe Ana in early February.


For those new to the club or the sport here are some of the meanings:
Rangatahi: youth paddler
W6 – 6 man waka (sprints & long distance)
OC2 – 2 man waka with rudder (long distance)
OC1 – 1 man waka with rudder (long distance)
V1 – 1 man waka rudderless (sprints & long distance for the brave and skilled)

Age Categories
Midget: 6-10 years
Intermediate: 6-13 years
J16: 11-16 years
J19: 14-19 years
Under 23: 16-23 years
Premier: 14+
Masters: 40+
Senior Masters: 50+
Golden Masters: 60+
Masters 70: 70+

Its never too early or too late to start paddling waka ama

We always welcome new members to the Maitahi Outrigger Canoe Club.
We have social and racing waka ama crews catering for a wide variety of ages and abilities.