INSPIRED SERIES – Michael Rogerson


Mike Long distance Nationals 2016 – Gold Medallist 


Division: Master Men

Club: Turangawaewae

Lives in Hamilton.

Paddling for 10 years.

I paddle all year round and participate in all the main races around the country.


My routine for races starts about a few days out.  I start to organise my paddling equipment and waka making sure it’s all in good working order (i.e. drink systems, rudder and rudder cables) and to make sure I haven’t misplaced anything.  Nothing worse than running around the morning of a race in a panic doing repairs or trying to find something.

I also try and concentrate on eating well and hydrating leading up to a race.  I have come unstuck during races by not doing these two things in the lead up.

The night before I like to have a big meal with plenty of vegetables some pasta and either Chicken, fish or steak.  For breakfast its porridge with cream, brown sugar and a banana with a cup of tea.  Then it will be a 50/50 mix of electrolytes and water and just snack on scroggin leading up to the race.

The morning of the race I try and stay relaxed not rush around too much.  I’ll stretch throughout the morning.  I’ll usually try and get out on the water at least 15 minutes before race to loosen and warm up.


My mantra is be confident but humble.  You must have the confidence to back yourself if you want to succeed but also be humble in victory or defeat.


Takapuna Beach Cup 2017 – 24km Relay


The biggest mistake I ever made leading up to a race was not washing out my hydro pack before racing one year at the Bo Herbert Memorial race.  I became very sick halfway during the race and lost a lot of places.  So hence why I like to make sure I have everything organised days in advance.  Cheers Mike.


Mike Rogerson lives his mantra to a tee! He is one of the most humble paddlers I know.  I got to know Mike a bit better on our worlds Campaign for Tahiti Long distance champs this year.  When I approached him to write this little piece he was very taken aback by it not realising how much he has to offer us all.

Its similar with all our paddlers. Most ask “why me, I’m not special”. Actually you are, because it’s the way you do what you do that counts. It’s interesting to see and acknowledge our differences because those differences will really resonate with someone else and give them hope.

I admire Mikes consistency to his training while supporting his whanau, and coaching at his club.  Trying to compete yourself as an athlete and coach is no easy task so I take my hat of to him for that.

Our paddlers have given this information freely so please show some awhi (love, support) and go like their athlete pages if they have one or drop a comment on the blog thread on my Facebook post.

If anything resonates with you head over to the Facebook page and drop a comment.  It may just create some awesome discussion for us all to learn more from.

Much aroha to you for following my journey and mahi.  If you haven’t already please like my Facebook pages and even my instagram page if you are on there.  Don’t be shy, share the love.

Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve

Follow me

Hiria Rolleston Mindset Trainer – to help take you to the next level in your paddling, and life

Eastcoast Paddler Aotearoa – for all your paddle gear, canoes and instructional vids

Hiria Rolleston on insta – to follow where my paddle takes me




Anne paddling for her club team Manuz and Jemimaz


This hearty paddler is from Palmerston North, and is an open womens paddler for Manuz and Jemiman from Haeata Ocean Sports.  She has been racing waka since 2010.

Main sport focus is sprint flatware kayaking but have competed nationally and internationally in a number of paddle sports; surf lifesaving, wildwater kayaking, ocean ski racing, waka ama and whitewater rafting.

I asked her if she has any specific events she does each year and her reply was;

Ha ha I don’t really have a typical amount of events per year, it’s really dependent on what my focus is that year or what is happening long term (i.e olympic cycle campaigns where I cut right back on waka or other disciplines in the two years proceeding doing a few waka races and maybe five or so sprint regattas which are Europe based so take time and funding to commit to.  Or post olympics like this year across my varying disciplines of waterspouts where I’ve done half a dozen waka races, surf lifesaving nationals, a couple of rafting events, and ocean ski worlds plus i like to do as many local races as possible in waka, flatwater, and multisport racing too.


Depends on what type of race I’m doing (which paddlesport and sprint or long distance). For waka though I make sure all my kit and equipment is ready, usually the night before if possible.  Making sure to be hydrated well in the 2-3 days before but thats kinda just standard all the time.

Dinner night before based on what I’m feeling like, often chicken veggies (kumara or taro if I can get some) and maybe some pasta/rice.  And the routine green tea and chocolate before bed.

In the morning I eat a solid kai 2-2.5 hours before, porridge with berries and seeds and keep sipping on electrolyte, listen to music and stay relaxed but feeling ready… strong black coffee about 30 minutes before (especially for sprint racing).

For kayak racing I’ll do a pre warm up about 60-90 minutes before race time with a 20 minute set warm up before the race…  waka is a bit more relaxed, bit of dynamic land warm up and a paddle warm up with some builds/changing intensity… often have a snack of banana and honey on white bread about 1 hour before the race.



I don’t really have a mantra, I more try to just focus on the process of what I need to do, the outcome I want, technique, timing, race plan.

Biggest thing I remind myself is to enjoy it, no matter if it’s an olympic start line or a local race I do all the training and everything because I enjoy it and I can.  Not everyone gets to do what they enjoy and have a passion for so I’m unashamedly opportunity greedy and make no apologies for it.


Anne representing Samoa at the Olympics


Ha ha biggest mistake is slippery hands!!!  Apply sunscreen early or ideally get someone else to do it for you!  I always roughen up my hands with sand or mud, it’s a crap situation when you’re hands are slipping on the shaft, you grip tighter and it plays on your mind.


Again, I have only really got to know Anne through our recent World’s Campaign but knowing she is an olympic paddler and seeing how she trains and her consistency with her focus and nutrition was pretty cool.

I admired her approach to the team and flexibility coming from a predominantly individual paddle background.  She is one hundy chic and someone I totally admire on and off the water.

Our paddlers have given this information freely so please show some awhi (love, support) and go like their athlete pages if they have one or drop a comment on the blog thread on my Facebook post.

If anything resonates with you head over to the Facebook page and drop a comment.  It may just create some awesome discussion for us all to learn more from.

Much aroha to you for following my journey and mahi.  If you haven’t already please like my Facebook pages and even my instagram page if you are on there.  Don’t be shy, share the love.

Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve

Follow me

Hiria Rolleston Mindset Trainer – to help take you to the next level in your paddling, and life

Eastcoast Paddler Aotearoa – for all your paddle gear, canoes and instructional vids

Hiria Rolleston on insta – to follow where my paddle takes me





Shon is an open mens division paddler from sunshine Coast, Australia and has been paddling for 4 years.  Typically participates in Queensland OC1 Series, Nationals and Paddles for Pacifica Open Mens Team.  He also paddled for NZ at the 2017 world Long Distance Champs in Tahiti.


Off/on season I’m doing about 40-60km a week on the water.  Little bit higher/more for in season OC1 or on the race length I might try and push 80-100km a week.  I try and train for the upcoming predicted race conditions.  If it’s a downwind I’ll try do more downwind on the same angle.  If it’s a triangle I’ll try and do some variation training.  If its flat I will work on my speed a bit more.  I gym 3-4 times a week.

I try and stick to a high fat diet avocado, cheese, white meat.  I don’t eat red meat before a race ever.  I don’t carb load but will have a bit of bread the night before and morning of the race to hold water.  If I do feel like carbs I’ll have a small amount of pasta but not rice.

I try and not do anything I don’t do on a normal morning.  I eat all the same things like oats, water but I’ll add some electrolytes in depending on the race length.  I drink coffee.  Maybe right before I hop in the canoe I’ll have a bit of sugar or banana but not too much.


My mindset is if you have done the work the result will take care of itself.

I do everything possible to avoid conversations about the race or hanging out at race venues.  I don’t like talking too much and like to stick to myself and think as less as possible about conditions, race lines who to be concerned about.  I am only concerned about managing myself (OC1).  I don’t like racing the race before its started.



I think I miss way too many race briefings ha ha.


A big mihi (thanks) to Shon for being so open with his journey.  Although I haven’t known Shon for very long watching the way he carried himself at the World Long distance champs and his commitment to paddling inspired me.  He has a pretty impressive paddling CV for someone who has only been paddling a few years.  That’s why I wanted to share his journey because it shows me that it’s not about how long you have been doing something that counts, its how well you do it and Shon is a testament to the hard work and consistency needed to become a better paddler.

Our paddlers have given this information freely so please show some awhi (love, support) and go like their athlete pages if they have one or drop a comment on the blog thread on my Facebook post.

If anything resonates with you head over to the Facebook page and drop a comment.  It may just create some awesome discussion for us all to learn more from.

Much aroha to you for following my journey and mahi.  If you haven’t already please like my Facebook pages and even my instagram page if you are on there.  Don’t be shy, share the love.

Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve

Follow me

Hiria Rolleston Mindset Trainer – to help take you to the next level in your paddling, and life

Eastcoast Paddler Aotearoa – for all your paddle gear, canoes and instructional vids

Hiria Rolleston on insta – to follow where my paddle takes me

Inspired Series – Marama Elkington


Interview with Va’a News after Marama’s Gold Medal achievement at World Long Distance Champs Tahiti.


My name is Marama Elkington.  I’m a paddler from Porirua and I paddle for Hawaikinui Tuarua Waka Ama Club.  I paddle in the Open womens division, and have been paddling for 13 years.

I usually compete in the National Sprints, and some long distance races like the NZ Aito, and Tahiti Aito.


Before I attend an event I educate myself to my competition.  I watch potential threats in a W6 and strategies.  When I get to the competition I familiarise myself with my course and conditions.

The night before I stretch and have my strategy planned, but adjust it the next day depending on different aspects.

On race day I sleep as much as I can, but also head down to observe the race calls, race starts and things like that.

Before a race I warm up by running, skipping, and exercises.  I also stretch and slap down my body, and keep my body moving to keep the nerves from settling.

However I always have to do a nervous pee before every race (some habits die hard aye).

I don’t have a special diet, I usually snack after a race, and eat when I have enough time between races.


My saying is “Go hundy or go home”.

When I race I leave everything on the water.  I like to remember the feelings I had when I lost to previous opponents and channel that when I both train.


Gold Medal victory in the Junior Long distance race at World Champs Tahiti 2017.


I have no regrets leading up to race day, as I feel that is half of the work that goes into a race, being prepared.  During my Open Women’s final in Australia, at the World sprints I however learnt a crucial lesson in racing.  I have always had a bad habit of looking to the side at my opponent while racing.  I looked across with 5ms to go, I fumbled with my paddle, and I lost.

This is probably the biggest thing I regret because I think I would have won.  This however taught me the importance of trusting yourself and truly believing in what you can do, and your training.


I have had the privilege to know Marama and train with her in the past and all I can say is wow.  Her presence can be quite intimidating because she is so focussed on the mahi. I have always been inspired by her work ethic and commitment to training and paddling, which clearly pays off.

So much gratitude to Marama for having the courage to step up and share her knowledge and how she makes it work for her.

Our paddlers have given this information freely so please show some awhi (love, support) and go like their athlete pages if they have one or drop a comment on the blog thread on my Facebook post.

If anything resonates with you head over to the Facebook page and drop a comment.  It may just create some awesome discussion for us all to learn more from.

Much aroha to you for following my journey and mahi.  If you haven’t already please like my Facebook pages and even my instagram page if you are on there.  Don’t be shy, share the love.


Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve

Follow me

Hiria Rolleston Mindset Trainer – to help take you to the next level in your paddling, and life

Eastcoast Paddler Aotearoa – for all your paddle gear, canoes and instructional vids

Hiria Rolleston on insta – to follow where my paddle takes me

You have to back yourself 100% – a year of recovery and transformation

When you get smacked in the face by adversity, will you become resentful or use it as an opportunity to grow?

I was forced to rethink my approach to training when I tore my achilies while weight training in the gym.  I was being my usual competitive self trying to beat the guy next to me in a WOD.

I’d been conditioned to believe that by pushing harder, you get better results.

But from that moment onwards, I was forced to approach my training with a fresh perspective.  I knew that I could get stuck in a victim mindset and let this injury break me, or I could use it as an opportunity to grow.

I had this sense of knowing that my body would back me.  I chose to let go of other people’s fears and worries, and refused to listen to the outside noise that could drain or deplete me.

I chose to focus on being present in the moment, dealing only with the situation in front of me, trusting my own feelings and thoughts and working with “what is” rather than resisting the situation.


Within days of my injury, I placed 3rd in the Long distance Nationals, Open women’s rudderless Division 2016, in huge swells with my leg in a cast, wrapped in a black rubbish bag.  That’s when I truly understood the power of mindset – and my paddling was transformed forever.

I had spent so long trying to compartmentalise myself, but I now know that what I do inside impacts everything else around me.  I finally understood that I was not alone, and that there is nothing bigger than myself because I am the universe.  When I make the time to connect within, there is no need to be afraid.

Staying connected is a daily practice, a matter of making time to be still, to recognise where I am in this moment.  Am I here? Am I in the future? Am I in the past?

Anger and frustration puts your dreams at risk.  It’s ok to be uncomfortable because that’s where we grow.  You have to back yourself 100% – to find that fire in your belly and be open to the unexpected path.

You have to create space in your head to hear your intuition.  You have to tune into your environment and stay present in the moment.  and you have to work on discovering who you really are, so you can recognise your own thoughts and fears, and let go of everyone elses.

I became conscious of my language, letting go of negativity, comparison, jealousy and over thinking.  Instead I chose to accept the situation and move forward from there, working with what is and focusing what makes me feel good.

Because I was unable to train my lower half, I had to listen to my body to discover what was right for me.  I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to experiment and figure out how my body responded best.  I began recording my observations of my training, noticing how I felt and studying the patterns to learn what worked and what didn’t work for me.

By consciously studying my trainings I became more present and aware and could make changes on the water.  Over time this has become natural and I don’t have to work so hard to get into that space.  I feel I am now so in sync with who I am and my capabilities, that I know my body will back me and I can push myself further, with a sense of ease.

By choosing a different, more conscious and smarter pathway, with less striving, I felt as if I’d stepped into my flow.  My progress accelerated.  I made the Open women’s team for the world Long Distance Champs in  Tahiti.  I am now consistently in the top grouping and keeping up with people whose speed I once envied (still envy).


Ironically this only happened since I stopped looking at what they were doing and stayed present with myself.  It’s easy to get psyched out by your competitors, but I’ve learned that I’m far more powerful when I’m focusing on doing my thing and making every stroke count.  If I put my focus on where they are in the race – even for one second – my speed drops.  When I bring my focus back my speed picks up.

And now?

I’m a totally different person at home and on the water.  What you see is what you get – everywhere.  I’m less reactive and more in tune, so I don’t fly off the handle so much.  My kids are happier and our household is more settled – and I know things would have been uglier if I hadn’t followed through for myself and pursued my dream.

I have a heightened sense of awareness and I understand that I have a choice in how I respond.  The depression that I’ve carried for 20 years has lifted.

I’m now more loving because I love myself more, and I’ve learned that we shouldn’t be so afraid to show how we feel because it makes people feel better.

Paddling feeds me as a whole person.  When I’m out there on the water, I feel at one with the paddle and the water, connected to everything.  It’s as if I’m giving back, sharing my energy with nature and the universe.  There’s a lightness about me as I glide with the water rather than against it, and a sense of calm that becomes my competitive advantage.

I work with…

People who have hit a wall in their training, are not performing on race day or who have been thrown off course by injury or personal circumstances, and don’t know how to get back on track.   If you are committed to making change contact me on my Facebook page  and lets have a casual chat.


NB: It’s almost one year since I tore my achilles and we are 20 days out from the next Long Distance Champs.  Follow my lead up to the Nationals on Facebook or instagram.

As always, I am grateful to all those people who believed in me enough to give me a chance and supported me in my recovery, and who continue to do so. You all have a special place in my heart.


Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve







So you think you got Glide? Lessons from the Poor Knights Crossing 2017


Rikoriko – the start of the Poor Knights Crossing, NZ

The water changed, it felt heavy, the waka dropped and it felt like I was getting pushed around, my mind had gone into default.  Then a voice from behind yelled “she’s coming”.  It was all I needed to pick up my game.

I immediately sat up, drew in a deep breath and started surfing my waka.

I realised I had dropped into paddling for the sake of paddling.  Something that many of us do when we are at that point of exhaustion or feeling of failure.  Almost like giving in.

The more you focus on the present moment, the easier paddling becomes.  You work with the water, feel lighter, have more energy and move with your natural strengths, achieving better results.

I’m not the best paddle surfer in the world but I do know a thing or two about it and the Poor Knights gave me enough time and distance to prove my theory to myself.

Here are a couple of tips for the next time you hit the ocean swell, whether its wind chop, swell or any kind of bump, the principles are the same.

  1. Learn how to read the water. Connect to your surroundings. Being able to read ground swell direction, wind swell/chop, and how the land underneath can impact on how the water moves will be a big help to your paddling if you don’t know already. Be able to identify when a wave is going to break, or even to help you see the lines and know when to push and when to rest your canoe.
  2. Don’t be a robot.  Try and avoid getting caught up in the idea that you need to paddle the whole time.  This is what happened to me once I got passed by the lead open woman.  Lost focus and started to just paddle without thinking about what I was doing or taking notice of the conditions.
  3. Lighten up! It’s better to glide across the top of the waves, than sit in the trough and be at the mercy of the bumps.  How? Consciously sit up, draw in a deep breath and avoid digging your blade too deep.  It’s all about timing but often when we dig deep it can hold the canoe back instead of letting it glide.  Look for the lines, the opening.  It’s often better to go for the small stuff and stay on top instead of riding the big waves and using up all your energy trying to get into them.
  4. Use different gears.  Just like in a 4WD truck, you may need to adjust your setting, meaning you may need to go forward more, or longer, or cut it short. I always try to make every stroke count but adjust it to fit the wave or bump and where my canoe sits on it.  Depending on where the canoe is I will either reach more up front and tap for a couple of strokes, or come back to my side and push the canoe down the face of the wave. There is a balance and need to be able to anticipate the flow of the water,  this is where rudderless paddling comes in handy!
  5. Awareness is key.  There will be moments when you lose focus, as I did but as long as you are aware of it, you can quickly adjust yourself.  I had a feeling I was out of my zone and was lucky I had someone to snap me back in.  I had no one around me for ages and that can be a problem, not knowing where you are in a race.  Unless you go into it with a race strategy (which I didn’t, except to survive).  Perhaps if I had things would have been different.  But I choose not to do the what if’s.  What’s done is done and now I know better for next time.  So it’s all on for 2018!

At the end of the day it’s really about having fun.  I was out there yelling and screaming to myself because I was just enjoying each ride (well most of the time).

Paddling feeds me as a whole person.  When I’m out there on the water, I feel at one with the paddle and the water, connected to everything.  It’s as if I’m giving back, sharing my energy with nature and the universe.  There’s a lightness about me as I glide with the water rather than against it, and a serene sense of calm that becomes my competitive advantage.

If you are serious about wanting to improve your paddling performance and don’t know where to start or have tried a bunch of stuff and still not getting results, maybe you need to dig a little deeper and find out whats really holding you back.

I am about to open the doors to my new online outrigger coaching programme and would love to have you join me.  Find me on Facebook and PM me or send an email to outrigger programme.

A big mihi to everyone who follows me and has had the courage to come up and introduce themselves at events or reach out online.  It’s pretty cool meeting people from overseas, it’s humbling actually.  I really do value your time and words of encouragement and support.

Much aroha,


Hiria x



Five simple hacks to transform your training


You’ve tried it all huh? The crazy training regimes, the diets, the latest fad and still not getting the results you are after?
There is so much information out there on how to paddle, how to train, what to eat, how much sleep to have its all a bit overwhelming.
Time is important to us all and we don’t want to get it wrong.   So who do we believe?
This is what I learned through my own experience.
1.  Have an open mind.  Listen to those willing to share knowledge. It doesn’t mean you have to do it. Once you have gathered it all up then decide how to make it fit you.  Not the other way around.
2. Put you first.  If you are really wanting success you need to start putting yourself first. Feed yourself, train yourself, educate yourself first because then it gives you the chance to improve and help others. You can’t lead someone somewhere if you haven’t been there yourself.
3. Learn the basics and do them well.  Leave all the tricky shit. Learn the absolute fundamentals based on how your body is supposed to move.
4. Get to know yourself.  This is the only way you will get it working for you.  Dig a bit deeper below what you say you like or think into what you truly feel, not what you do because someone else does it.
5. WHATS YOUR WHY?  This is probably the most important part.  I left it for last because I’m guessing you would have stopped reading if I put it first.  Most people do physical activity or sports as a means of losing weight or making friends, or to bulk up etc.  When it comes to those hard days where you don’t want to get out of bed or drag yourself to the gym after work, these things don’t motivate you enough.  But, if you were to focus more on the kind of character you would be building and look at being the best version of yourself it opens you up to so much more potential you probably didn’t realise you had.  My goal is to be the best damn paddler I CAN BE, and that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win. I have learned that if I want to be my best that I need to do the hard work on my physical training, my eating, my sleep, my emotional wellbeing, taking care of my whole rather than one area alone.  It gives me more chances of success.  Don’t get me wrong, if that old way works for you that’s awesome, but please do try looking at it in a holistic way.  I used to train my butt off for image and weight because thats what I thought I had to do and in the process it made me a bit crazy, and uptight.  I would always feel deprived, whereas this way I feel like I have won the lottery!  My mind is at peace, and I’m making the physical gains too.
If you really want to transform your performance and are over where you are at now try something different.  Don’t give up until you can say you have really tried.
Remember if something in here has given you an ‘aha’ moment jump onto my facebook page and leave a comment.  Your contribution may just help someone else.  Thanks for all the aroha and following me on my journey.
Hiria x

Three simple areas that may help improve your boat speed. How are you doing them?


You can take your paddle and attack the water with it, straining every muscle in your body, throwing up rooster tails behind you.

Or you can slice your blade into the water, anchoring it solidly and using your entire torso, pulling it smoothly and evenly with much better results.

This is an excerpt I came across years ago when I was studying on the waka ama course with Matahi Brightwell in Gisborne.

It really stood out to me and made sense.  I was trying to damn hard!

Like with anything new, you go hundy because you are just so excited and in to it, so I get that.

If you are wanting to improve your paddling, before you start trying all the technique tricks under the sun or buying a lighter more streamlined canoe here are a couple of things you should check first.

  • Are you getting a good catch?

I talk about getting a good catch a lot! It’s the start of your stroke, and if you don’t got that you got nothing.   What is a good catch? Making sure you enter the blade nice and clean, anchoring your paddle at a positive angle.  There are two angles you can use, 45 or 90. Obviously a 45 degree angle will give you more of a power phase.  It will help you to lift the boat. But, then you need to think about maintenance once the boat is up and running and that’s where the 90 degree angle can come in handy.  Just when you thought it was a one stroke fits all huh?  The kind of strokes you use will all depend on your fitness, body type and what you can maintain.  But I won’t go there right now as it’s a big enough topic on its own.

  • Are you holding the catch?

Now you have the catch, you are supposed to hold that pressure through your stroke. A catch on its own is not enough.  Don’t let it slip.

  • Are you getting a smooth exit?

Once you have released the pressure on the blade (this should be once the paddle is by your hip usually, just before it moves to a negative angle) you need to pull it out in a way that does not disrupt the glide of your canoe.  Many will just rip it out, but you want to let it pop out on its own, effortlessly.

Check these three things, adjust accordingly and your boat speed should definitely pick up.  Always try working on yourself before jumping into the easy option, and often more costly options for improvements.  This is where the real stuff is and will make the difference on the line when you decide you are all in.

I am by no means an expert, but I am the Master of my own journey and the information I share is based on my own personal experience and improvement in paddling, guided along the way by my mentors and coaches.

As always thank you for following my page and if anything in this blog has given you an ‘aha’ moment please jump on my Facebook page and leave a comment.  You never know how many other people feel the same way you do or did.

Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve








Give yourself permission to make mistakes – lessons from Aito Tahiti


Tui and I on the finish line Aito Tahiti 2017 Open and Master Women.

As I positioned myself on the start line I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear.

It was in that moment I realised I hadn’t thought about my race plan at all, I felt pretty dumb for missing that important part.

The race start felt like forever.  That time from when the red flag goes up and then the green.  There was lots of pushing and shoving going on with paddlers trying to get the best start they could.  I remember hearing Hinatea Bernadino yelling out “given me space, give me space”.  She ended up paddling out and right around to the side to reset.  I know there was at least one other wave of paddlers behind me.

After one paddler had pushed her way through she grabbed my ama in an attempt to better position herself.  My first thought was that I wanted to slap her upside the head but my better self showed up and thought I would show her in the race whose boss.

It was a gnarly start, kind of like dodgems with canoes crashing right in front of me.  I had a feeling to just stay back because I didn’t want to flip, it proved to be the right thing to do as a gap opened up in front of me after the carnage.  However it meant that I had a lot of ground to try and make up.  I took my opportunity and booted it out of there.

By this time I knew I was a wee way back from the front pack and lost my bearings.  I decided to just focus on me and making every stroke count.

I pulled away from the pack I was in and was making small gains picking off paddlers one by one.  I had two other paddlers flank me for most of the course.  It was a head wind on the way up to the first turn marker, but there were little bumps that I was able to capitalise on pushing me in front of the other two.

As we neared the half way mark I started to notice some of the other paddlers, our top NZ paddlers, I could see Vesna, Mari and Marama and I got all excited.  I realised then I had to try to make up as much ground as possible before the turn as once they round the marker it’s all downwind and trying to catch someone on a downwind is pretty hard if they are on a roll.

I passed one more paddler before the marker and then the whole race changed.

As soon as I got around the turn marker the water was heavy, and all over the place.  I realised I hadn’t had much to drink either.  I didn’t want to risk stopping and have someone pass me.

Just over half way back down the reef my thoughts wandered to the paddler in front of me.  It was Marama Elkington, one of our top NZ junior and opens paddlers.  I could see her getting closer and closer but then I started to feel like crap.  I had made up a little refuel drink for me to take about 6 kms from the finish but again I couldn’t bring myself to taking it.  The internal chatter started.  I was thinking about all the stuff I should have done, had I done enough, who was I to think I should be there, and be up there with these other awesome paddlers.

I started to feel tired, but not my body, my brain, and then the two paddlers who had flanked me most of the race were gaining on me and ended up passing me.  We were at the end of the surf run by now and rounding the last turn, I took the inside right along the reef and it was the heaviest feeling ever.  To my right, Tui MCCaull had taken a wider line and she just zoomed by.  My brain was so tired by now I wasn’t quick enough to make any good decisions so just kept paddling hard to the finish line which was only about 500m away!  Within 10 minutes I had gone from being in 7th place to 9th!

I was just grateful I made it over the line and that I managed to come in where I did.  And that was 9th out of 36 paddlers in my division and 16th overall out of 80 women paddlers.

In reflection I had so many what ifs but since then have come to recognise all the learning in the lead up to the race and after.

The week leading up to the race was pretty stressful, in the sense I was in a different country, it was hot, and my baby was really sick.  I had spent most nights sleepless trying to comfort her through the night.  There was also a lot of stress around from having my whole whanau there and whanau expectations.  More lessons that I will share later on.  These are all important things I know I need to share because these days there are more mama taking on the challenge of being an elite athlete and we are faced with a whole other set of challenges that will only make us stronger.

So many things I could have done better but I’m happy in knowing I went out there, did a pretty good job and are now hungry for more.  Its given me a taste and glimpse of what is possible and I am now on a mission to make that happen.

And that is to be the best paddler I can be because I know by doing that it will create a snowball effect of so many health and wellness benefits for me and my whanau.  It’s unlimited potential! Who knows where it may lead?

Thank you to everyone who supported me to get to Tahiti and gave me words of encouragement, hugs, kisses and butt-kicks along the way.  I am blessed to have so many awesome people around me.

Hiria x

NB: Aito Tahiti is the most important individual va’a race in Polynesia with a distance of 15km with a downwind surf leg.









Top five mistakes novice paddlers make when they start out


“Just get in and follow the person in front of you” they said.  sound familiar?

Yep that was my intro to waka ama too.   I’ve learned a lot by trial and error since then but the biggest thing I had to do was unlearn all the bad habits I had picked up from coaches along the way.   I have spent the last two years going back over my stroke, breaking it down into fundamentals and basically start over.  Through that I picked up some key areas I notice other novice paddlers make or are still making.  There is more than just five but I have focussed on some key ones I think are important in getting a good start.

1.  Many paddlers don’t get a good catch.

There are many paddlers, who instead of starting with a good catch by getting a good angle on the blade, they are pulling before the blade is buried.  This makes the stroke inefficient and reduces the potential for glide of a canoe and speed.

They usually have a negative angle, meaning blade enters the water after 90 degrees, after the power phase, which pushes the canoe down reducing glide.

They usually pull the paddle before it is planted.  This can look like the wheels are spinning, or feel like it’s really easy to pull through the water, meaning you actually haven’t grabbed much water so won’t be going far.

They also do a double movement at the catch.  Something I used to be guilty of until recently.  And it came down to my interpretation of what was most important, or what I was taught about catch.  Told to spear it like a fish and then push and pull. Sequence is important in a stroke and making sure everything is engaged together to push, pull and drive together really is as hard as it sounds.

2.  Top arm elbow is too high.

I don’t normally get caught up in exactly where peoples areas and legs should be except when it comes down to efficiency and injury prevention.

Many paddlers when starting out flare their elbow out above their head to try and get reach.  This opens up the shoulder and rotator cuff to extreme pressure and potential injury and also limits the application of power production. Its best to keep your elbow below your shoulder to make the most of your power.

A good way to tell if you elbow is too high, have a look at your shadow.   Or if you are starting to feel discomfort in your shoulder area this could be why.

3.  Many novice paddlers suffer from the death grip

They hold the paddle too tight.  When I first started paddling I used to get really sore forearms.  I learnt pretty quickly it was because of my grip.

It is important to keep a relaxed grip on your paddle to avoid blowing up your forearm muscles.  Staying relaxed helps you to recover in your recovery phase of the stroke.

4.  Most beginners lean on the ama making the canoe tippy.

I know as a beginner is really easy to just lean left, especially when the ama lifts a little. The thing is you need to get used to being comfortable with the uncomfortable and balance your posture.  When the ama lifts everyones first reaction is to lean left, and then the ama usually jerks right and hello huli!

It also reduces the glide of your canoe.  Try sitting more balanced, so weight across both cheeks and use your core. This sets you up for so much more efficient paddling in the long run and less injuries.

5.  Most new paddlers just jump in the waka and go.

This I believe is partly due to the club culture, but at some point there needs to be a connection with your surroundings, other paddlers, the water, and whats going on around you.  There are hints to help you perform better in the natural environment, as corny as it may sound it’s totally true.   I see it all the time with people who are new to the ocean, they attack the water instead of falling into its natural flow.

Ok so now what?

You can’t fix something if you don’t know its broke so have a look and analyse where you are at first.  The best way to work out if you are doing these things is to ask your coach, or someone you can trust to be honest with you.  Otherwise get someone to film you and give you the proof.

Once you know what you need go about finding someone to help you fix it. I have a bunch of resources from my own journey of sorting out my stroke and would be happy to share with you.  Or if you are a bit more serious about sorting yourself out drop me a line and lets chat.

If there is anything in here that has created a lightbulb moment for you please jump on my facebook page and share.  It would be great to get more discussion going around it.  Paddling can be so isolating at times and its easy to lose motivation when we think we are on our own.

As always, thanks for following my journey,


Hiria x

#imagine Believe #achieve

Share your light bulb moments on my Facebook page