Like many Paralympic sports with ancient roots, canoe and kayak racing evolved from the great and proud history of boats propelled with paddles that dates back to the Stone Age. In New Zealand, Maori canoe races or Kaipara waka hoehoe were, in the earliest years of European settlement, a common feature at local sports meetings. This tradition has been carried on in the form of Waka Ama races that occur as part of various events around the country.
Canoeing was added to the Paralympic Programme in 2010 by the International Paralympic Committee, and will make its first appearance at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
For a sport in which the aim is to paddle the fastest over distances from 200m to 1000m, inclusion in the Games will be just as exciting for the spectators as for the athletes. To reach that level of competition and succeed in either singles or pairs events, however, New Zealand men and women with gold medal dreams need to develop a large amount of upper body strength and endurance - not to mention a high degree of mental conditioning.
Both waka ama and canoeing are included in the Paralympic Games categories (kayaking and canoeing are the divisions) and both distinguish themselves from other Paralympic sports because the events are run exactly like their non-disabled counterparts.
This level of accessibility and inclusiveness is great news for the more socially -minded participant and there are plenty of opportunities for physically disabled young people to enjoy these sports at all levels: club, regional, national and international.
Kiwis love the water and kayaking/canoeing of all types has always excited interest from paddlers of all ages and abilities. New Zealand waka ama and Canoe Racing New Zealand understand this and are committed to continue developing and supporting paracanoe and waka ama as great sporting options for disabled people.