A north Waikato-based waka ama club is ready to race at the national sprint champs after losing three boats to an arson attack in November.
The club, Waka Tangata o Te Awhinamai Te Toki ki Tuakau, lost its three waka to a suspicious fire in early November - a key period when the paddlers were beginning their training for the national champs.
On Sunday they'll head to the Te Wananga o Aotearoa National Waka Ama Sprint Champs, being held at Lake Karapiro from January 15 - 20.
It's one of the biggest sporting events being held in the region, with more than 3000 paddlers taking part.
The club is fielding about a dozen teams, from midgets through to masters.
Club president Rosalie Ellis says thanks to two waka Te Wananga o Aotearoa loaned the club - along with two others from parent club Te Toki Voyaging Trust - paddlers have been able to maintain their training schedule largely uninterrupted.
"There was no break in training, they were able to continue on through so they've got no excuses," she says.
However, the attack on the treasured waka "hit the club hard".
"I just couldn't believe it. I'm not sure what they were trying to achieve, but one thing is for sure, they have really hurt our kids."
Te Wananga o Aotearoa chief executive Jim Mather says it was an easy decision to provide the waka to the club in its time of need.
"Waka ama provides massive benefits for paddlers and helps bring communities together so anything we can do to support that is well worthwhile," he says.
Following the arson attack, a givealittle page raised more than $7000 for the club and a Waikato District Council staff fundraiser boosted this by a further $1600. But with a new waka costing about $17,000, fundraising continues.
Waka, or outrigger canoes, are part of the culture of Pacific people. In recent years, it has grown in popularity as a recreational activity and sport.