What Jan got up to in Tahiti

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Jan Blythe and heer new rudderless V1 Va'a (waka)

Just for something completely different I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to lately. In case you have no idea I am a ‘waka-holic”, I love paddling waka. Getting out on the sea put me in my happy place and refreshes me so I can do all the intense, on the computer stuff that is part of my work day.

Va’a (Waka Ama) World Sprints

In July I competed at the WorldSprint Club championships in Tahiti in the masters 60+ womens W6 category. I didn’t take a computer or an iPad with me. It was a fantastic experience. I got to speak French again – even if the cleaning lady thought I was speaking English my accent is so rusty). I got to meet a multitude of paddlers from all over the world. I got to experience racing in really windy conditions that we would normally not go out in.
Our crew didn’t do so well as quite a few got the flu . However, it missed me and I had a great time. I enjoyed the food, the company, the temperatures, the sun and just generally being immersed and surrounded by waka and waka paddlers. (Maybe not everyones cup of tea… and my idea of heaven.)

New challenges

I’m not sure why, but I seem to thrive on new challenges. There was this shop…. It was like being in a candy store – all these beautiful va’a and paddles. I couldn’t seem to help myself and came out the owner of a shiny new red va’a. They shipped it back to New Zealand for me. It finally turned up in Nelson by a most circuitous route an couple of weeks ago.
The va’a is a traditional Tahitian one man (or one woman) canoe and it is rudderless. The va’a or V1 is used for one-man races in waka sprint racing. That means that the paddler is also the steerer, a concept I am not entirely familiar with. Ah well, how hard can it be?
It turns out its quite hard. Not only do I have to make the waka go forward (at a sprinting pace) I have to keep it in a straight line. With an outrigger on the left, the waka automatically wants to turn left. So now I am learning to paddle all over again. I’m having a lot of fun. I haven’t fallen out yet and I’m not entirely sure I could get back in if I did. I will wait for the warmer weather to try that one.
My goal is to be able to go straight enough to race in December in Christchurch and in January at the Waka Ama National Sprints. I’ll let you know how I go!
I really recommend a balance or work and play. I am really grateful to my boss, Brendyn, for putting up with all the waka talk, the skiving off for training sessions and generally the amount of support and encouragement I get from him.

Brendyn Montgomery

Brendyn is the manager of Avoca Web Design, a keen trail runner and an accomplished and award winning musician.

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