Digging Deep On and Off the Water

Lawrence Vaevae, and three of his colleagues will spend 12 hours paddling the Panmure basin in a bid to raise money that will help see their team through to the Waka Ama Nationals in 2015.

This Sunday at the Tamaki Outrigger Canoe Club in Auckland, Coca-Cola Amatil NZ (CCANZ) Flow Controller, Lawrence Vaevae, and three of his colleagues will spend 12 hours paddling the Panmure basin in a bid to raise money that will help see their team through to the Waka Ama Nationals in 2015.

Just six months ago, Lawrence hadn’t paddled since he was a teenager nine years ago until his colleague, Chris Fifita, approached him about Waka Ama (outrigger canoeing). Inspired to get back into the sport Lawrence reached out to his old coach Sam Walters at the Tamaki Outrigger Canoe Club - to Lawrence’s delight he was still coaching and willing to take on some new paddlers.

The seed was planted, with Lawrence determined to paddle again and Sam available to coach, they rounded up a couple of other colleagues to join them on their journey to the 2015 Waka Ama Nationals.

Robert Teleiai and John Ione, all based at the CCANZ Auckland Distribution Centre, joined Lawrence and Chris to form the Waka Natives along with eight other friends. Lawrence says Waka “represents their passion for the sport” and Natives “represents our cultural integrity and heritage”.

In the lead up to the Tamaki Outrigger Canoe Club 12 Hour Paddle-a-Thon, the team has trained tirelessly - three times a week for at least an hour a session on the water, “rain or shine, day or night” says Lawrence. Their training has been rigorous and collectively they’ve lost a staggering 80 kilograms in the process.

The Paddle-a-Thon will see the crew will paddle a 2km loop around the basin as many times as they can until they need to rest. Once they decide to rest, they will tag in another team who will then paddle until they tag another team in and so the run continues.

The crew have 12 hours to paddle as many kilometres as possible – they are targeting a whopping 80km, with sponsors donating money per kilometre paddled. They’ve calculated that by hitting their target they’ll be able to help fund both the team’s trip to the Waka Ama Nationals at Lake Karapiro, Cambridge in January next year and purchase some new paddles.

The 2015 Waka Ama Nationals will be Lawrence’s third national event, having competed in 2005 and 2006. Rob has competed once before, in 2005, although this will be the first national event for both Chris and John.

Rob says, “Paddling this Sunday and competing in the nationals next year will give me the chance to show family and friends the new passion I’ve found in Waka Ama”. John enjoys sharing his own passion for Waka Ama with family and friends too, “Having them spectate or get involved fills me with the greatest joy”.

The crew spend a lot of time together both on the water and in the Distribution Centre but it only makes their bond stronger. Lawrence says he loves the challenge of Waka Ama, “Pushing hard together as a team, digging deep and getting to the point where you want to give up but prevail together as a unit. These triumphs are what bind us together at work”.

Rob adds that competing is a great way to showcase “team spirit, mutual respect and work ethic” to all of their friends, families and supporters.

The crew is hoping to shave 15 seconds off their last timed run which would give them a 500 metre sprint time of 1:48 – the same time as the winning open men's team at  the last national event.

Undoubtedly, their strict training regime and 12 hours of paddling this weekend can only help get them there.

The Tamaki Outrigger Canoeing Club 12 Hour Paddle-a-Thon is this Sunday 14th December at the Panmure Basin (Kings Road) from 7am to 7pm. Spectators are welcome.