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In it, heart and soul


As Kiwi Campbell says herself, she puts her heart and soul into the sport of waka ama.

She paddles, coaches and provides leadership, and has done so for about 20 years.

Campbell enjoys having her whanau along with her on the journey and said she felt honoured to be acknowledged by her peers in the wider waka ama family when they inducted her into the sport's hall of fame.

Campbell and two retiring Waka Ama New Zealand board members — chairman Paora Howe and his deputy Tim Marshall — had their contributions recognised at the sprint nationals at Lake Karapiro last month.

Marshall and Campbell are from Gisborne and Howe is from Tauranga.

The hall of fame has been running since 2015 and Tairawhiti already has a notable presence there in the form of Matahi and Raipoia Brightwell, who started Gisborne's Mareikura club and helped drive the sport's development in New Zealand.

Campbell, a paddler and coach for the Horouta club, said she was shocked when her citation was read out and she noted afterwards that she had joined a select group.

“I'm just doing what I love, putting in my heart and soul,” she said.

Campbell didn't have much time to dwell on the accolade and she has moved on quickly from the sprint nationals.

She is New Zealand coach for the elite women and junior-19 development sprint teams this year, preparing for the world championships at Hilo, Hawaii, in August.

As the 2016 and 2018 New Zealand open women's coach, she is well placed to know what preparation needs to be put in.

The Aotearoa women produced commanding performances at those championships and, in both years, Campbell was named Maori sports coach of the year.

Her squad had a clean sweep of gold medals across their three events at the 2016 International Va'a Federation World Sprint Championships in Australia.

In 2018 at Tahiti, her W6 team won gold in the 500 metres and silver in the 1500m, and the W12 team won gold in the 500m.

Campbell paddled in each of the championships, earning her further nominations at the Maori Sports Awards, for team of the year.

She was a leading figure for Horouta Waka Hoe at the world club championships in Tahiti, helping them secure the international title in 2018 for best club.

“Kiwi is one of the most successful coaches our sport has seen and will continue to see well into the future,” her hall of fame citation read.

“Kiwi is a strong mana wahine who has given countless hours, blood, sweat and tears to this sport, while also being a fine ambassador and example to paddlers of all ages.”

Horouta Waka Hoe Club president Walton Walker said she had evolved as a coach, taking on new ideas and engaging with experts in areas such as nutrition, while maintaining an emphasis on fitness.

Campbell started coaching under-12 and u13 teams and continued up the age groups to develop young paddlers.

She continues to work hard on the water.

She came third in the W1 premier women's 500m at this year's national sprints and was part of the successful premier women's crew for Self Storage Gisborne Horouta Waka Hoe.

She was fourth in the W1 premier women's 250m dash.

“She walks the talk,” Walker said.

Campbell said her input into the sport was no one-woman contribution.

“I've surrounded myself with strong leaders and had a strong team behind me.”

She said she was looking forward to “tagging out” from the club's premier women's crew, stepping up to the masters level soon.

She has been supported by her husband Bruce, mother Irene and late father Rex, and her sons Mairangi and Maia are renowned paddlers — as are her twin nieces Kodi and Cory.

Marshall, himself honoured for two decades of service, said he was proud to stand alongside Campbell as she was recognised.

His daughter Amiria Mita, who works for Waka Ama New Zealand, was coached by Campbell.

As well as his contribution at board level, Marshall was head of the loading bay at the sprint nationals this year and has volunteered there for 10 years.

Waka ama changed its governance structure in New Zealand in 2011.

The Waka Ama NZ board was created and, according to the citations for Marshall and Howe, the sport had flourished since, with membership more than doubling, the number of clubs rising, more schools taking part and a coaching framework implemented.

Howe had “written policies, offered guidance, networked with potential partners and stakeholders and led the values of Waka Ama NZ in every action” and Marshall had “often been a quiet, consistent, calm voice of reason over the last eight years, stepping into many roles and doing whatever is needed”.

Marshall said he had a close working relationship with the retiring chairman.

HARD WORKER: New Zealand women's and junior-19 waka ama sprint coach Kiwi Campbell works hard on and off the water. File picture by Paul Rickard
From left, Tim Marshall, Kiwi Campbell and Paora Howe were inducted into the waka ama hall of fame last month. Picture by Garrick Cameron