By Mere Elkington
My first image of Hawaiiki Nui Tuarua Waka Ama Club was James Hapeta, standing tall as his height would allow, hand screening his eyes from the sun as he watched his rangatahi paddling on the water. He turns to get a better position on the foreshore to view his teams’ possible outcome. In support on his left are Denise, his sweetheart and Regan. I didn’t see the outcome for his team; but it was indicated simply by a “Woo-hoo-hoo” and a beautiful toothy smile, as he did a quick and agile jump – and this encounter was only a session of training. My first lesson learnt, he had a passion for rangatahi participating in this sport of waka ama and his support was dedicated and committed.
I walk forward and introduce myself and for a moment I am caught off guard, as James clasps my hand and at the same time I get planted with a wet sloppy kiss crushed against my cheek, followed by a warm grizzly bear hug that dissipates all my nerves into a laugh. This introduction impacted my impression of James Hapeta, he was always a pleasure to be with and ever since I have known him, he has never made me feel any less than special…..A handsome, happy, humorous, hearty human being, who has blessed my life with his presence, passion and energy for this sport of being Maori – Waka Ama.
For those of us who have walked with you, who have talked with you, who have paddled with you, who have trained with you, who have been coached by you – as kindred spirits of Waka Ama, you will never be forgotten James – in waka you will always be remembered.
He wahi mihi tenei ki a koe – E Koro!
Haere, e nga mate
Haere ki te kainga tuturu
Haere ki too Matua I te Rangi
Haere, haere, haere!