Kia Ora,

The countdown is on and our team is fighting ready for the Queen Lili’oukalani Canoe Race in Hawaii! Since we take off in just three weeks it’d be a good idea to introduce you to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Waka Ama team.

It’s apt that we are named the FMHS Seabass, as clearly, we were made for the water. However, this year we are so much more, we are the University of Auckland Tertiary Waka Ama Team. Here we are:

Grace Jarvis—her technique is second to none. This Picasso of the Seas is studying a Conjoint in Nursing and Chemistry

Billie Haresnape—our resident Ironwoman and elite athlete is in her 3rd year of medicine

Lauren Hartridge—no stranger to the Tertiary sport scene, Lauren is studying a conjoint in Health Science and Science majoring in exercise science.

Leilani Ioelu—the true Moana of the Hauraki. Our specialist steerer is in her 3rd year of medicine

Jordan TeAukura—the most enthusiastic hype man in the boat is in his 3rd year of medicine

Joe Scarrow—he is nothing if not committed who is in his 3rd year of medicine

Liam Gilheany-Black—the powerhouse of all powerhouses is also in his 3rd year of medicine

And finally myself, Loukas Banks—I’m in my third year conjoint in Nursing and Physiology


What is Waka Ama?


More commonly known as outrigger canoeing, Waka Ama is similar to most boat-based water sports. A collection of 6 athletes paddling on opposite sides move the boat forwards in a combination of patterns made by our designated caller. The main difference between us and any other similar sport is that we all face forward, we have one blade each and we only paddle on one side at a time. 

Why are we going to Hawaii?

Every year the University of Auckland hosts the Great Waka Ama race. The event puts up the best paddlers from each faculty at the University against each other in the 18km dash. The highly competitive race consists of a 5km paddle to Rangitoto island, an 8km return summit run up the volcano and finishing it up with a 5km paddle back to Takapuna beach. The prize: an all expenses paid trip to compete in the Queen Lili’oukalani Long Distance Canoe race—the worlds largest outrigger canoe regatta. While we are there we will be competing in two 8km events and then the big race; a 30km paddle from Hanaunau bay to Kailua-Kona.

Preparing for the Great Waka Ama Race

Being given the opportunity to compete overseas does not come without its challenges. First challenge was winning the Great Waka Ama race. Waka Ama is not one of those sports where you can just show up on the day and ‘give it a crack’. Training started way back in February earlier this year. Only three members of the team had previously paddled so getting the other 5 ready for race day was the first hurdle. This largely based our training around working together in our timing and strength. Starting the regime, we were on the water twice per week. However, the closer we came to race day, we raised the bar to 3 times per week with the allocated runners doing extra training on the side. Although painful at the time, the 5am starts proved successful come April.

Race Day

The Race Begins

Our team was the first to arrive on the Takapuna shores, extra early to begin our pre-race preparations. The conditions could not be more perfect. No wind, flat seas and just the slightest drizzle and overcast to keep us cool. The canoe was rigged and checked, double checked, and triple checked. We did not want our outrigger to become a single hull mid race. It’s safe to say that the combination of anticipation and excitement made for a lively atmosphere. The prospect of winning the strongly contested prize had all the teams buzzing and ready to put their all into the coming challenge.

The engineering Eagles, eager to defend their title were gone like a bullet from a gun. But the Seabass were not phased, the hours of training and focus allowed us to get the boat on a good run and we overtook, becoming the first University team to reach the Rangitoto shores. The decision was made that we would run as a team and push together. We took rotations supporting and motivating each other. Before long we were at the top and made the blissful boost back down the island. Holding a good lead from the run the team put in the mahi and pushed stronger until we reached the finish line. Being the first team through the arches welcomed us to a ruckus of congratulations, cheers and high-fives. We are off to Hawaii.

What’s to come?

Over the next few weeks you’ll meet some of the other team members who will take rotations writing upcoming blogs and team updates. Continue to follow our journey as we hope to make the University proud!

Written by Loukas Banks