You, and the waka you came in on …

This is a plug for stuff to do with my day job at Zoomslide. Tonight, 8pm, Waka Warriors goes up on Maori TV. Three rangatahi sign on for a circumnavigation of the North Island, and the trip of a lifetime, on a traditional, double hulled, sail powered voyaging waka. They compete in tests of boat handling and traditional navigation for a berth on the waka Haunui to Rarotonga.


Yes, it’s what’s known as reality. Here’s what else is real: Polynesians had been navigating the Pacific for centuries before Europeans could even sail upwind (due to the centuries-long invention of a thing called a “forestay”). They did the lot, and more. And, even though the myth of accidental discovery of the Pacific has been largely debunked for decades, the extraordinary achievement has not really been accorded the credit it deserves.

For instance, ask your average 10 year old who discovered New Zealand, or Aotearoa. How many are going to suggest Kupe? I’m not out to belittle Cook. On the contrary, I’m a fan, thanks largely to Anne Salmond. But despite her best work, and others (remember Te Vaka at the Auckland Museum?), the fact that everybody got here by boat doesn’t really seem to have sunk in.

According to the press release, the kids have to dig deep physically, mentally, emotionally … and culturally. And they do.

I’m not directly involved. I’ve watched an episode or two, and helped out here and there. I like it because it ticks the entertainment boxes of primetime reality while also being true to its cultural kaupapa. And it looks and sounds great too.

I’ve spent some time on the mighty waka Haunui and one or two others, and they’re amazing things. State of the art traditional vessels, you might say. Which means as close to a 1,000 year old voyaging waka as could be, while also taking advantage of modern construction (although they’re still lashed) and safety gear. Radio, yes. Life-jackets, check. Motors? Solar, limited capacity. Not a lot of use in a storm.

You might have seen the Hawaiian ones down at Okahu Bay over summer. Well, this show will put you right on the deck.

As Team New Zealand, Oracle Racing, Artemis and others clamour for the startline of the Americas Cup in their spring loaded multihulls, it’s worth recalling where the catamaran concept first developed: right here on our Pacific doorstep (it’s apparently Tamil for “tied wood”).

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