Waka Ama: the best decision I made as a first year Uni student

The general consensus between student advisors and Uni staff is that the best way to enjoy the full university experience is to join a student group. Whether it be the desert club, public policies society, or one of the faculty associations the idea is that by involving yourself in student and campus life you can have a lot of fun.

I was super keen at the start of the school year, and also insanely bored. So I decided to have a look and see if there was any way I could join something early and meet some new people.

That was when I found it. The Holy Grail. The Great Waka Ama Race.

All I knew about it was that it was an on the water sport; involved a boat; paddles and an insane amount of running. My hope was that it would be something like dragon boating. I would later come to discover that it was nothing like the dragon boating I did in high school, it was better! The great waka ama race involves paddling from Takapuna beach to Rangitoto island, sprinting up to the volcano’s summit and back down again, and then paddling back across the ocean. It is an inter-faculty competition and the winner gets sent to Hawaii for free to compete and represent the University.

So I decided that this sounded awesome, and was definitely worth giving it a go. I rocked on up to my first training (at 6 in the morning!!) and was so nervous. I had to pull over 5 minutes before I arrived so I could calm myself down. But then I arrived and met my team and they were the most amazing people ever. Coach Barry is absolutely the most lit coach ever, my favorite bit of training is at the end when we get into a circle and talk about what we did well, and then he says a small karakia before giving us all a fist bump.

We train three days a week in the mornings, which was always a huge drag getting up early enough to make it into the city on time. Now I live in the halls, and it’s really close to the waterfront where we do our training so instead of waking up at 5:00 am to get to a 6:00 am training, I now wake up at 5:30 and we carpool down to the training (that extra half hour makes a huge difference;) ). Because we are on the water so early in the day we get to see the sun rising over Rangitoto island and the city. Even though I’ve now seen it plenty of times it still never fails to amaze me with how beautiful it is.

There are two parts to the great waka ama race. The paddle bit, and the run bit. Paddle training is three times a week and the run training is whenever people are free. Usually we run from the Uni Rec Centre over to Mount Eden and then run to the top. It’s super tiring but also a lot of fun (even though I have to always stop for breaks on the way up). The photos below are from one of the first times I ran up Mount Eden;)

Another awesome part about joining waka ama is that you race in teams based on faculty. I am a first-year law student, so my team is a part of the law faculty and is made up of only law students. It is the same for Engineering, Art etc. So this is an amazing chance to get to know some students who are either in the same year as you or get to know some students who are in their final years of study. I know I have met some awesome people, who have given me some amazing advice for first-year law students (which I will definitely type up into a post). But there’s only one way to go from the bottom and that’s up! Even though I knew nothing about paddling in a waka we worked together as a team and picked it up really quickly. Now we are just working on speed and the run to the summit (ugh), which involves a lot of complaining about early morning practices and the 8km paddle Coach Barry makes us do every training.






Waka Ama was such a good decision. Every training I come away feeling super happy, whether from the endorphins of exercising, or just happiness from being around a group of people who are pretty awesome, I don’t know. All I know is that I cannot recommend anything more, good luck to anyone who gives it a go!

(There will be a video post after the race this weekend with some footage from our training’s and from the race:)