A PASSION FOR PADDLING
I was born alongside my twin sister in Hamilton hospital on August 9, 1993. My three sisters and I moved north with my parents when I was merely 3 years old. We were raised in a small rural settlement called Broadwood. The lush native bush, abundant swimming spots, farmland and no significant cell phone reception made it a prime location to grow up with a rough tolerance for the wilderness and respect for the natural environment. After kohanga reo (Maori preschool) my twin sister and I joined our older two sisters, Hannah and Rose, at Broadwood Area School (Kura o Manganui-o-wai) in a full Maori immersion class whereby we could only speak and write in our native Maori language. This played an important role in our appreciation for Te Reo Maori, traditions and culture.
We were first introduced to waka ama by our father, David King who was introduced to it by our uncle Hotu; my mother’s cousin and an avid waka ama paddler, waka taua (Maori war canoes) leader and waka hourua (Maori/ Polynesian sailing canoes) Maori ocean navigator. My father then introduced paddling to my two older sisters, followed by my twin and I, then finally our mother a few years later. We would often commune in the seatless back of my father’s dusty old work van on a bumpy road to the tidal waters of the Pawarenga harbour. Although my most vivid memories of these days were simply playing with the other parent’s kids in the paddocks as we waited for what seemed like forever for our parents to finish paddling. The name of our club, and one of the first clubs to begin in New Zealand, was Nga Hoe Horo Outrigger Canoe Association. Early developers of the club include Bo Herbert, Kris and son Maui Kjesldon, Pili and more.
My memories paddling as a kid are clearer when the club migrated to a more reliable training ground not dependant on low and high tides, Lake Ngatu. A lake located 10min north of Kaitaia. Although it was a long drive for those paddlers who lived in Pawarenga, it soon became the clubs favourite training ground often referred to by some local padders as ‘the lake that builds champions’ due to the lack in buoyancy of the lake water compared to salt water. I think it had more to do with the fact that many teams including my fathers teams which often had one of three sisters in there commonly did well on the podium at national and worlds events.
My earliest memory is when I was standing at the edge of the lake one day at around 6 years old watching fellow Nga Hoe Horo paddlers train. Ron Tamati, one of the great paddlers, coaches and contributors to the club handed me a paddle and taught me the basic stroke while I stood there and practised in knee deep water. That moment is when it all began.
Back then it remained a seasonal affair for us, only having the sprint season to look forward to in the middle of summer (December-January). Us kids played other sports such as rugby, tennis, touch and netball during the winter. It wasn’t until later in my paddling life that I began to paddle year round and throughout the winter.