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Myka shares his passion for waka ama

September 24, 2019

Myka Nuku is teaching waka ama at EIT.

In July, EIT introduced Te Pōkaitahi Tikanga (Kaupae 3) – NZ Certificate in Tikanga (Level 3). Students are able to choose between two specialist subjects, mātauranga Māori or the traditional indigenous sport of waka ama. In recent years, the popularity of waka ama has increased significantly – thanks to people like Myka Nuku.

He is one of the waka ama tutors that EIT was pleased to welcome on board. Myka not only holds a Master of Māori studies, he is also a renowned waka ama athlete. He has represented New Zealand for the last 17 years in international Open Men and now Masters Men competitions and recently got second at the Masters World Championships. Myka is also coaching the New Zealand Elite Open men’s team. And if that’s not convincing enough, he won this year’s Hawke’s Bay Sports Award – Masters Athlete of the Year for the second time.

Myka is an inspiring example of a successful career changer. He didn’t start paddling until he was in his mid-twenties. He was working in Wellington as a builder when a friend encouraged him to go out on a traditional outrigger canoe. “I was hooked immediately, that sudden peace in the middle of a busy city was absolutely fascinating,” he remembers the pivotal moment that ignited his fascination for waka ama and further led to his master studies.

Ever since, Myka has heard many stories of people who fundamentally changed their life after falling in love with waka ama and all the aspects that come with it. This “x-factor” is the phenomenon that Myka wishes to further explore in his future studies.

Myka also shares his passion with his whole whānau. His wife Roni just won silver at the World Championships with the New Zealand Elite Open Women’s team and even their five-year old granddaughter Āio was infected by the family’s enthusiasm for the sport. There are currently five clubs in Hawke’s Bay which people can join, when they would like to get engaged competitively.

 “For me waka ama just opened a door to te ao Māori, my Māori culture. I built a connection with my heritage by soaking up the knowledge which was passed down from my ancestors,” says Myka.

Myka, who also teaches te reo Māori at Napier Girls High School says that te reo Māori will naturally be integrated throughout both the mātauranga Māori and the waka ama curriculum of the new certificate. “We say a karakia before going on the waka, the students learn the Māori names for all the parts of the canoe and we use basic phrases like hoea (let’s go), kia rite (get ready) or kia tere (go faster).”Furthermore the course covers water safety issues, and Myka teaches his students how to read the water, waves and weather.

People who are 16 or older are able to enrol in the new certificate, and students don’t need to be particularly sporty. “People just have to be interested and open for a new experience. It’s a very safe sport which is a bonus. Falling into the water is highly unlikely as the ama (outrigger) of the waka improves its stability. Blisters are probably the worst ‘injury’ you can get,” says Myka with a smile.