In 1988 Kris Kjeldsen started a company called Nga
Hoe Horo canoe builders.
The company was started so that Kris, in partnership with Bo Herbert
could build the fleet of
1990 canoes for the IPCF World outrigger sprints, held in Auckland
1990 the name was changed to Moana Nui and in 1993 Kris's son Maui
joined the business.
Maui specialized in building the laminated wood paddles, popular in
New Zealand and over seas, Tahiti, Hawaii, California, and both
Western and American Samoa.
Since its conception the SURFRIGGER solo outrigger canoe has proven
New Zealand paddlers, as well as internationally.
The Surfrigger was also used in the World Sprints in Suva Fiji in
The Sea horse is also very popular, it is a sit on top version of
the Surfrigger and was used in the 2000 World Sprints in Townsville
Moana Nui continues to manufacture the "1990 Design" W6 canoe and it
still proves to be very popular in Aotearoa, of all the designs in
New Zealand the 1990 is still the highest in numbers.
Maui has recently designed The Mahimahi a W6 that is designed to
perform better in open ocean conditions, influenced by designs in
Tahiti and Hawaii.
The Mahimahi is becoming very popular in New Zealand and quickly
growing in numbers.
Moana Nui has other designs including the Ika Nui W2 and the Waka
Ngaru W4, they are all in this pages of this site. Kapua (Kris's
daughter) came into the business in 1997 and has developed a range
of accessories such as spray skirts and paddle bags.
The company has evolved and grown with the sport in New Zealand.
Kris's Family has also grown with his wife Alamein, who runs the
office side of the business and their new daughter Keala.
The history of Waka Ama (outrigger canoeing) By Kris Kjeldsen
For the Tangata Whenua - the people of the land of Aotaroa, the
Maori, the paddle symbolizes a sence of purpose and direction whilst
also affirming their culture links with the canoe.
All individual Maori ancestry is intrinsically linked with a
particular canoe upon which their forbears arrived on the shores of
Aotearoa. This provides each person with an essential link back to
Hawaiki - and beyond to creation itself.
Being one of the elders of Outrigger canoe building in New Zealand
and one of three people responsible for the revival of the sport
here, I will tell our story of the history and growth of Waka ama in
Waka ama (outrigger canoe) paddling was re-introduced in 1995 with
the arrival of the Hawakiki Nui, the replica Polynesian voyaging
canoe built and sailed by Matahi Whakataka (master builder)
Brightwell on an epic voyage from Tahiti to Aotearoa.
Matahi spent four years in Tahiti building the Hawaiki Nui, during
which time he became involved in Outrigger canoe racing, the
national sport of Tahiti. He recognized that this would be the very
thing to help the youth of New Zealand regain some of their culture
heritage and traditions.
Before coming to New Zealand, I had paddled for Kai Nulu Canoe Club
in southern California and was also involved for a short time in
Hawaii. So when I finally settled in the small Maori community of
Pawarenga in the far north of the North Island on the edge of
Whangape harbor, (where I lived for about fifteen years) I wondered
why there was no traditional Maori canoe racing.
On reading in the newspaper about Matahi's intended voyage and his
dream to rekindle racing of traditional canoes, I knew it was time
to do soothing about it and so I was on the beach at Okahu Bay,
Auckland on the day the Hawaki Nui arrived in December 1985.
I met Matahi and told him of my plan to start waka ama paddling in
the north and to start building canoes. Matahi encouraged me and
told me he wanted to do the same thing in the Gisborne/East Cape
With the high unemployment in both areas, especially amongst the
Maori people, we were able to take advantage of training schemes
funded by the government to start these projects. The people of
Pawarenga got behind the project wholeheartedly and made it happen.
By early 1987 we had a work-training scheme in place; building
canoes and paddles and learning the art of paddling and handling
them. Ocean knowledge, surf skills and swimming were very much a
part of the program.
About this time, I met a Samoan named Pili Muaulu who lived on the
coast near Whangarei. He told me of his father's dream to find a
suitable log to carve a traditional Samoan Pao Pao, a small two
person fishing canoe. Coincidently I had a friend who had a suitable
log in his property who I managed to talk into donating. As a
result, our trainees, Pili and his family built the first
traditional Samoan canoe in New Zealand.
The training scheme in Pawarenga eventually evolve into Nga Hoe Horo
O Pawaregna (the fast paddles of Pawarenga) Matahi's group in
Gisborne became Mare Kura Canoe Club. Pili's extended family formed
a club called Mitamitaga Ole Pasefica Va'a Alo (pride of the pacific
canoe club) of Ngunguru. These three clubs along with one other in
Okahu, Auckland represented the original
four clubs of New Zealand.
In May 1987 at the launching of our first canoe in Pawarenga, a
meeting was held to form a national outrigger canoe association. The
three founding members of the association named Tatou Hoe o Aotearoa
(all the paddlers of Aotearoa), were Nga hoe Horo o Pawarega,
Mitamitaga Ole Pasefica Va'a Alo of Ngunguru and Mare Kura of
Immediately we started plans to bid for the 1990 IPCF World
Outrigger Canoe Sprints.
In July 1987 a team of NZ paddlers, Matahi and Myself traveled to
Tahiti to participate in the Turai Festival races. On this trip we
gained a lot of experience in paddling and racing Polynesian canoes.
In June 1987, Pili and Myself attended the first international
regatta held in Apia, Western Samoa. Whilst there, we spoke of our
newly formed association and our wish to host the 1990 World
Sprints. When we returned we formally adopted a constitution and
elected officers for the association. Matahi was elected as
president, Pili as vice president and myself as executive committee.
In August of the same year, teams for Mare Kura and Nga Hoe Horo
traveled to Hawaii to participate in the world sprints at Keehi
Lagoon, Honolulu, with one men's crew and one women's crew. While
there we put in our bid for the 1990 titles and we won the honor.
Much had to be done including the building of a fleet of canoes
which was left to me - sixteen, six-person canoes. Although we were
supposed to build the newly adopted IPCF hull we had problems in
getting it and were instructed by Mary Jane Kahanamoku to "do the
best we could with what we had".
The 1990 canoe
We had begun Waka ama with two Tahitian style canoes, which were
given to Matahi by Edward Mamaatua. The hull was altered to be as
close to the IPCF canoe while keeping in mind the New Zealand ocean
conditions. New decks and ama were designed and made.
In re-designing and building the 1990 canoes the over-riding idea
was to build for New Zealand conditions, so that the canoes would
subsequently be useable for both offshore racing and flat water
These canoes became the nucleus fleet for outrigger canoe sport in
Aotearo. We built them to last and perform and they have. As of
this writing they still remain one of the most popular design in New
The vast majority of W6 canoes in New Zealand are the 1990 design.
There one fault was that they were a little hard to turn, by putting
a little more rocker in later models, the turning improved.
As a result of the world sprints held in Orakei Basin in Auckland,
which were a resounding success, waka ama was finally and really
running. Since then, Outrigger canoe sport in NZ has enjoyed
In the last few years, NZ paddlers have had a number of
1992 at the fifth IPCF World Sprint Championships in Sacremento
California, my son Maui Kjeldsen took gold in the junior Men's solo
canoe event, Corrina Gage took silver in the open woman's solo, and
Tarawera Outrigger cane club's Open Men won a silver in the 500
meters W6 and a bronze in the 300meters W6.
1993 The New Zealand outrigger canoe team finished second in the
Hamilton Island forty-two km marathon and fifth in the Bankoh
Moloka'I Hoe in Hawaii out of seventy-five teams.
1994 at the sixth IPCF World Sprint Titles in Apia, Western Samoa,
NZ paddlers won twenty-one meddles, equal with that of Tahiti in the
meddle count and jointly winning the championships.
Corrina Gage again taking a silver and Raipoia Brightwell (Matahi's
wife) taking a bronze.
Aaron Herbert of Nga hoe Horo Canoe Club, Pawarenga won Gold in the
junior men 19 years and under solo event.
Spence and Gene Pospicil also of Nga Hoe Horo taking home the gold
and bronze medals in the junior men under 16 solo event.
1995 A NZ women's selection was invited to travel to Tahiti to
compete against the top Tahitian's women's teams in the RFO Tahiti.
In the marathon in April they finished first and in doing so
inspired the Tahitians to put more energy into their women's
programs having mostly concentrated on their men's teams.
In September Maui Kjeldsen and Aaron Herbert were invited to compete
in the prestigious Super Aito long distance solo outrigger canoe
race in Tahiti.
The super Aito or Budweiser Channel Va'a is a race from the island
of Moorea to Point Venice in solo outrigger canoes without rudders.
The top twenty-five men finishers in a previously held Aito race of
about twenty kilometers qualify to start in the Super Aito race
along with invited paddlers from over seas. Maui finished third.
Earlier in May, four men in two teams from New Zealand journeyed to
Hawaii to compete in Walter Guild's Kaiai Challenge, a forty mile
paddle from Molokai to Oahu in solo outrigger canoes.
In fairly normal Kaiwi Channel conditions of five to six foot swell
out of the north and twenty to twenty-five knot northeast trades,
Maui and his team mate, Paul Wilford finished eighth over all out of
approximately fifty-three teams.
1996 New Zealand came 2nd over all in the medal count at the World
sprints champs held in Numea, New Caledonia.
1998 In Fiji at the World sprint champs New Zealand came third over
all in the medal count.
Team New Zealand/ Hawaii competed in the Molokai Hoe and placed 3rd
in the open Mens division.
1999 Team New Zealand/ Hawaii, compeated in the Molokai Hoe, this
time placing 2nd in the open men.
2000 Third time lucky? Team New Zealand/ Hawaii again placing 2nd in
the Molokai Hoe.
2001 This time they did it, on the 50th anniversary of the Molokai
hoe, Team New Zealand /Hawaii won it by 2 seconds the closest race
in the history of the Molokai 2nd was Laikai.