Volunteering at National Sprints

This year I volunteered at the 30th Waka Ama National Sprints. Its a completely different way to see the competition. It's also a way to get involved if you are not a sprint paddler, but want to experience the 'vibe'.

I had a ball. Last year I attended as a paddler in a W6 crew so I only saw the last 2 days of racing. This year I attended as a V1 paddler and a volunteer. I arrived on the Sunday morning and immediately got a job sorting out parking and event tickets. I then moved on to medals.

My job for the event was in the Tower as a spotter. Our job was to watch each race through binoculars. We were looking to make sure waka stayed within their lanes and we called the finish. There is a head camera man who is watching the various cameras on site. If we make a call, he will call one of the camera stations in to get a better view. We also called the finish of the race as a backup to the electronic timing. At one point the power went out so our finish calls decided the placing and time of the few races held while the power was out. It is an exacting job. We had a great crew, superbly organised by Marina.

There are all sorts of jobs that volunteers are required for. Greg Buck Volunteered for 3 days on the loading bay. They get all the waka into the water ready for racing (an early start), and then help organise paddlers in and out of the waka.

There were volunteers on administration, on cameras, announcing, results, paddler check in/registration and lots of other jobs that are required for the event to run smoothly. Our day started before 6am, and finished with a volunteers meeting after dinner, so it is full on all day. The loading bay and "Waka Fit" (aka putting all the waka into the water) started at 5am on the last 2 days.

One of the great benefits of being a volunteer is making connections with other volunteers (mostly paddlers). I was lucky enough to have accommodation on site. The meals were fantastic. We had a full breakfast available each morning and a 2 course meal at night. One night we had beef wellington, another night was lamb rack. Lunches were supplied from the various vendors on site. We were very well looked after.

The big night was Friday night when we had a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the event. It was seafood night. We had a huge smorgasbord of mussels, kina, oysters, fish, octopus, prawns, raw fish and so much more I can't remember. It was also dress up night with the theme 1990. It was a lot of fun.

I can't thank NKOA enough for the way we were looked after. I would certainly do it again.

Jan Blythe