Tairāwhiti turned on a perfect day for the interschool finals of Mareikura Waka Ama Club"s Kura Waka " a programme for rangatahi aged 8-12.

Four schools took part including Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wānanga, Cobham School and Central School.

Organiser Joelene Takai said she was pleased with how the programme went.

"We could not have done it without the commitment from the kura, the Tumuaki, Kaiako and of course Trust Tairāwhiti, so a massive thank-you to everyone."

"The Kura Waka programme was an opportunity for kura to give their tamariki the chance to have a go at waka ama, which included water safety, basic paddling and waka ama history.

"Too often tamariki miss out because they don"t know how to engage in sport, so we took it to the tamariki. Billy Maxwell, the chairperson of Mareikura Waka Ama and a qualified teacher was also instrumental in the success of the programme. A special mention to the Kaiako who worked tirelessly to get their tamariki to us at ANZAC (Rarohau) Park. I also want to thank Mahinerangi Tawhai, Odessa Stewart, Albert Mahuta, Matua Billy and their kaiawhina."

Horouta Wānanga won the overall prize for their commitment and improvement throughout the programme. They were thrilled with the prize of six lifejackets and six paddles for their school. Cobham School won the Year 5 novice class and Horouta Wānanga were the Years 5 & 6 plate champions. Horouta Wānanga also won the final of the Years 7 & 8 age races.

One student Karauna Reuben from Horouta Wānanga said this was the first time he"d tried waka ama and he was feeling confident ahead of the finals for his age group.

"It's really cool," said another Horouta Wānanga student Justin Matete.

The excitement was palpable as students cheered their fellow schoolmates towards the finish line. Everyone had worked up a good appetite by the time the BBQ was fired up at the end of the event.

The nine-week programme ran throughout term 1 with each school committing two hours a week during school hours. It finished with the interschool competition on the last day of term with more than 80 students attending.

"Our hope is that these tamariki increase their knowledge of waka ama and not be afraid to give anything a go," Ms Takai said.

The next Kura Waka will start up again in Term 4.