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Champion Waka Ama Paddler Joins Virtual Champs

World Championship medallist Maddie Dawe has called on the waka ama community to get involved in the New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championship after becoming the first waka paddler to post a time in the month-long event.

Inspired to compete through her friends and surf lifesaving partners; Carly Keys and Tara Smith, who currently sit one number one in the women’s single ski and women’s K1 standings respectively, Maddie posted a time of 1:19:24 for the 12km distance on Christchurch’s Avon River on Tuesday night.

She plans to register more times in the competition which is open to all paddle craft and has called on other members of the waka community to also participate.

“I would say to other waka paddlers to get involved and have a go,” explains Maddle. “We’ve had so many events which have been postponed or cancelled any opportunity to get in there and challenge yourself is pretty cool.

“I really like the virtual concept. It is great to compete and post a time in race conditions you are comfortable in whenever you want.”

The 35-year-old solicitor is an experienced paddler. Initially featuring in the sport of surf lifesaving out of the Waimairi Club – this is where she established her friendship with Tara and Carly two of the most prominent domestic surf ski paddlers.

However, in an effort to further develop her surf canoe paddling, seven years ago she first tried out for waka out of the Te Awahaku Outrigger Canoe Club and her words she has “not looked back.”

A winner of medals at the nationals long-distance championship her highlight came when winning selection to compete at the 2019 World Distance Championships in Mooloolaba, where she snared a silver medal in the six-person event.

However, the global pandemic has led to the postponement and cancellation of many competitions over the past 12 months – including this week’s (Mar 11-14) scheduled National Surf Lifesaving Championships in Ohope – which made competing in the Virtual Championships a more appealing prospect.

“I’d heard Tara and Carly talk about the Virtual Surf Ski Champs last year. I’d just had a couple of events cancelled and as I am preparing for the Long Distance Waka Ama nationals (April23-25 in Picton), I thought I might as well throw a time down in the Virtual Paddling Champs. It is fun to compare yourself with other competing around the world.”

With Maddie describing the weather as “horrific” in Christchurch on Tuesday, rather than go for an ocean paddle she opted to complete the 12km distance on and out and back route along the Avon River.

Considering the river route she described the time as “okay” but she feels she can lower the 1:19:24 clocking later in the competition.

“I actually competed in my rudder canoe when I have a rudderless one which is a bit nicer on the river,” she explains. “But I think Carly and Tara are both in Christchurch over the weekend, so I might go over to the harbour with them and do another 12km run.

“Setting a target time is difficult because it is so dependent on the conditions, but I’d like to better my time, although unless I have really awesome conditions it is not going to be much under 1:15.”

***The 2021 New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships is open to ALL paddle craft; surf skis, kayaks, outrigger canoes (waka ama) and SUP. All you need to do after completing the 12km distance is to register your time via the website.

You can compete both within your division and against each other to be crowned virtual paddling champion. Paddlers can log as many times as they like until the competition concludes on March 31.



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