U23 women of NZ – new faces in raft racing

The competition amongst the  U23 women will be very strong at this WRC. Here we present the host team, who hope to win the Overall gold medal.

NZ1The team is: Oriwa Hepi, Dale Thomas, Kayla Pene, Amy Tipling, Lisa Podlucky, Sam Gibson

We chat with Oriva Hepi to get to know them a bit better before the event.

Can you tell us more about your team? What do you do besides rafting? “Our team is new, we came together and won the New Zealand nationals. We have all had experience on the water through either training with a raft company or completing an outdoor adventure course, we do have one TL guide Amy who will hold a lot of knowledge. We are a multi talented group of girls who have rafting as their second sport to represent their country in. Dale Thomas – who has been the New Zealand out rigging champ for the past 5 years and has also represented New Zealand. Kayla Pene who recently competed in the world BMX Champs 2013. Oriwa Hepi who has represented New Zealand age groups for hockey and New Zealand Maori Hockey teams.”

Oriwa, do you have a coach? “We train without a coach mainly, but have the knowledge of Nikki Kelly (NZ Woman’s  Open competitor) to direct us and she offers her time when available. Our manager is Sandra Thomas”

How do you prepare for this competition? “At the moment we are in the process of fitting in a training weekend every second week on the Tarawera sections that we will race on and will possibly fit in more training as we get closer to Worlds. We also train every Wednesday with the Open NZ men’s team and occasionally the Open Woman’s team. We feel our team dynamics are coming together really nicely and we are able to break down, analyze any problems that occur and increase efficiency in our runs.”Sounding good!

Is there one discipline that you particularly like? “I think our preferred discipline at the moment would be the sprint for sure. The build of our athletes is powerful and having the home town advantage we feel we run the sections of rivers really nicely. Also Head to Head would be strong for us because of our power that we hold in our boat.”Home ground certainly favours and raises the confidence in the team. There is no doubt that the girls from New Zealand will put it to the best possible use.

Do you have some expectations for this WRC? “We have high expectations being the local team and having a majority of our members local also. We have been working really hard for this with funding and training that I think we would be disappointed to leave the competition without standing on the podium.”


I always like to ask the locals what it is that they would recommend to team to see when they are in NZ?

“I think the most awesome thing to see in New Zealand is the copious amount of different landscapes. From where the Worlds are being held you can visit awesome forest with excellent mountain biking, hiking. Numerous beautiful lakes, waterfalls (runnable for the rafters). The beach in Tauranga, 1 hour dive. The snow with some awesome snowboarding and skiing, 2 hours drive. Farms and animals everywhere. There truly are so many activities available in New Zealand that reiterate the beauty of our country.”

As a team that is just starting its history in rafting, we hope to see them with medals from this competition. All the best and we wish you a good time in WRC 13 NZ.

Article by Nada