Hello everyone! My name is Josie Stevens and this is the start of the blog documenting the Engineering Waka Ama team’s training for the September Queen Lili’uokalani Race in Hawaii. I have never blogged before so I thought it would a great experience to learn how to do it and to share with you what the team is doing to prepare for Hawaii.

So I thought I’d start with who I am very quickly. So me in brief; In 2014 I started at the University of Auckland studying a Bachelor of Engineering Honours degree. I am specialising in Civil and Environmental Engineering. I love sport and also being out on the water so at the start of this year I joined the Engineering Waka Ama team.

Having only a background in Dragon Boating from high school, Waka Ama was completely new to me. After a few hiccups at the beginning of training in January (like holding the paddle wrong and falling over whilst trying to get the waka in the water) my new team mates and coach managed to teach me to be a competent paddler in two months! My team were all very experienced paddlers and great people so it was awesome to learn from them.

The Engineering Team for 2016 are:
Te Wera Hauraki Mihaere
Billy Bowman
Cara Berghan
Nona Taute
Georgia Naera
Shan Peters
Dallas Watene
And me!
Coach – Leki Funaki, who also studied engineering at the University of Auckland, which was really cool to know as it meant we were a fully engineering team.


Full Engineering team and coach just after we won the Great Race at Takapuna

Throughout January we had Saturday trainings and in February started paddling Tuesday and Thursday nights too. As the Engineering team flipped last year in the Great Race, Te Wera and Leki had decided we should practice flipping the waka in our last training. This way we would be prepared should it happen in the race again. I was quite worried about trying it as we were loosely strapped in by the waka skirts. However my nerves were unfounded as flipping actually ended up being quite fun!

The day of the Great Race came and we were all feeling pretty nervous. It consisted of a 5km paddle from Takapuna Beach to Rangitoto Island. Then four of the six paddlers ran 8km to the summit and back down again to get back to the waka. We then paddled 5km all the way back to Takapuna.

AndrewLauPhotography (23 of 115)

Finishing at Takapuna Beach for the win

We had three women and three men in the waka with one woman and one man reserve. It was very tough on the paddle over to the island. The NTM crew were always a few boat lengths ahead and we were going against the wind and current. We arrived second at Rangitoto, but our four runners; Te Wera, Cara, Billy and Nona pulled us ahead. They arrived at the summit first and then got back to the waka a few seconds ahead of the Science crew. After we managed to pull out of the bay we could all feel the waka really surge ahead. We all dug really deep and managed to get to Takapuna in a really good time ahead of the Science crew. We had won the trip to Hawaii!

After a couple of months off (except for Georgia and Nona who were training for the World Sprint Championships in Waka Ama for New Zealand!) we started our first week of training just before Semester 1 exams. We did a couple of week day night paddles. Our first one was a beautiful, calm night which was great for paddling. The second one we did it was quite choppy water so we all got a bit wet and a few of us were worried the waka might tip at one point. On our first Saturday training Leki had us paddle from Okahu Bay to the Harbour Bridge and back, which was about 15km. He wants us to add about 2km every week so by the time we leave for Hawaii we would be paddling just over 30km, which is the length of the Queen’s Race over there.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be giving updates on our training programme in the water, the university gym and the races Leki will enter us in for practice. I’m predicting it will be a hard slog, especially in the freezing winter months when we have to be out on the water. Keep reading to find out how it all goes.

AndrewLauPhotography (27 of 115)

Celebrating our oncoming trip to Hawaii