Jan paddling her Fai Va'a V1 Rudderless wak at the National Waka Ama Sprints 2019

I’m refusing to act my age

Age is no barrier to competing internationally

I’ve just Qualified to race at World Sprints, 2020

At nearly 70 I have qualified to represent Aotearoa New Zealand in the single waka racing at the 2020 International Va’a Federation (Waka Ama) World Sprint Championships in Hilo, Hawai’i in August 2020.

My goal in training for, and competing in this race, is to share my story to inspire and encourage people to reach for their dreams and to prove that age is not a barrier.

It gets pretty physical

Jan on the parallette bars 2019

I am training to compete at the World Waka Ama Sprint Championships in the Masters 70+ women’s division in a single rudderless waka (V1). I will also be paddling in the six-man and twelve-man (women) divisions.

Getting there requires both on-water and off-water training. The off-water training consists of going to the gym for strength and cardio fitness. The on-water training is paddling my V1 or going out in a W6. It’s all pretty physical. I have to say that I am fitter than I have ever been and very much stronger.

I refuse to act my age

I am one of a growing number of women who refuse to act our age. At 69½ years-of-age I have just won my first ever medals in a national competition.

I only started paddling a single rudderless waka in November 2018. This year at Nationals (2020) I won a bronze medal. Winning the bronze medal qualified me to represent Aotearoa in my age division in Hilo in the Masters 70+ women singles race. The competition was fierce and the medal was the result of great coaching, lots of hard work, a good support network and a whole heap of determination. (If you are interested you can see the race on Māori Television)

Jan is a young 70 years who has worked diligently and conscientiously to excel and achieve in the sport of waka ama. She has trained hard and travelled to receive world class coaching around Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are proud of all Jan’s efforts to promote waka ama and be an inspiration and role model for women of her age. We endorse her endeavours to seek funding to support her continued training and coaching in order to compete and travel to World Sprints in Hilo Hawaii.
Tracey Kingi, President
Te Waka O Aoraki
(South Island Region)

From sitting on the couch to power lifting…

Six years ago I was sitting on the couch as I had been for the previous 25 years. I was unfit and not very well. Someone invited me to paddle in a waka and I suddenly I had found a reason to get active again. My whole life changed. I went to Outward Bound at the age of 65 (in mid winter) and realised that there was indeed more in me. And here we are…

Jan doing press-ups at the beach

Waka Ama is my passion

Being on the water in a waka is my happy place. Paddling feeds my body, mind and soul.

I paddle waka ama for the absolute joy of being on the water, to keep fit, to keep young, for the challenges it brings and for the amazing whanau I am gathering within Aotearoa and overseas.

I am role modelling a different way of ageing. I want to inspire people of all ages when I tell my story.

So very proud of you Jan. No matter what exercise challenge and nutritional plan I asked of you even when you may have thought you couldn’t do it you narrowed your focus, put your best foot forward and achieved above and beyond your expectations.”
Jason Hulena, Personal Trainer,
Primal Fit Gym

Showcasing Waka Ama in the South Island

Waka Ama is a very inclusive and whanau oriented sport. It’s a traditional sport, accessible to all ages. It is a way of life that takes me onto the beautiful oceans, rivers and lakes around Aotearoa and beyond. However, in the South Island we are the biggest region in area with the smallest number of nationally competitive paddlers within the Waka Ama national community (Waka Ama NZ). By competing at worlds, I would like to showcase the sport in the Nelson and the South Island and encourage people to give it a go.

It’s very easy to paddle waka socially here in Nelson which is how I started. It’s a great way to leave the stresses of the day behind and enjoy being on the water with wonderful people. It was the first time I had been on our beautiful harbour, explored Haulashore Island and gotten up close and personal with the Boulder Bank. You don’t have go into full on racing. Some days it is just paddling for the love of it and some days it’s hard core training.

What does it take to get there?

It takes a huge amount of time, commitment, determination, perseverance and resources are required to successfully compete at national and international levels in any sport at any age.

I am fortunate to be coached by Aotearoa’s top women’s waka ama coach, Corrina Gage in Tauranga. I follow her on-water and the off-water strength programme by Megan Read, Megs Body WoRx.

I’m part of the Primal Fit Family

I am also fortunate to have Jace Hulena at the Primal Fit gym here in Nelson to encourage, support and push me outside my comfort zone in an effort to build my fitness and strength along with the support and encouragement of the Primal Fit family.

This is a huge commitment; physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. I am working on ways to get support to help me get there. In the meantime I’m doing things I never believed possible!

If you would like to become part of my support crew let me know. If you have any ideas about fundraising that would be great.

Special thanks to

I have (and am building) a great team. Special go thanks to

Avoca Web Design  and my family for supporting me in so many ways and especially when when I start a sentence with “Sorry…”. – which usually means I have more training in the North Island or I have to early leave to paddle with my favourite crew.

Corrina Gage of Waka Unlimited, waka coach extraordinaire, who has gone above and beyond with my coaching and is supporting my W6 crew as well.

Jason Hulena of Primal Fit for sponsoring my Boot Camp fitness and strength training

Rob Smith at Waka Paddle for my Kialoa Paea paddle, the Paddle Me shorts, discounts on some great gear, (and moral support and training when we were desperate).

All those paddlers come out and do my crazy training V1 sessions or get me doing their more crazy sessions. This also includes shag rescue service for shag vs octopus and the odd unidentified tentacle around the ankle (I thought you were joking Linda. It really was an octopus!). Thanks so much to Carmel, Rongomai (My Tahiti Buddies), Zoe, Linda, Huriana et al.

The crews who invite ‘Janma’ to paddle with them; Katchawhae, Nga Manu, the Krakens, and then give me a great workout and interesting information about pitfalls of waterproof mascara and FADs (Fish Aggregation Devices).

All the paddlers, too numerous to mention, who encourage and support me. (Sean, Tony, Pete, Katie, Tracey and Julie that definitely includes you as well.)

Last and not least my masters 70 W6 womens crew, Kurawaka (Ruamata Waka Ama Club) for their support in getting me to training, feeding and housing me. I am so proud you are part of this journey with me.

P.S. Covid-19

It turns out that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, IVF World Sprint Championships in Hilo were cancelled. We went into lock down and all paddling stopped for a while. The next chance to compete will be 2020 in London. New Zealand has been very lucky to be able to keep the level of Covid-19 cases to very low levels. It is now October and we have been back paddling W6 since June. Dealing with the loss of my goal has been a big process. Fortunately I am have started training for National Sprints in January so we will see where to from there.

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