Creating a Waka Ama paddle erg at home

Waka Ama
Jan's Waka Ama Paddle Erg

Covid-19 calls for a Plan B

OK, so now I am definitely onto Plan B. Aotearao, New Zealand’s Long Distance Nationals in Picton have been cancelled. International Va’a Federation World Sprints in Hilo, Hawaii August 2020 are cancelled. I am at home under a national rāhui (lockdown) for four weeks at least. We aren’t allowed to go on the water. Today is day 11.

How do I cope with not paddling, not being on the water. How do I cope with going from training full on for an international event to not being able to do the sport that makes my heart sing.

The rāhui is giving me a lot of time to think even though I am still working (online from home). I am in a ‘bubble of one’. I can do boot camp online from home via Zoom. (Thank you Jason of Primal Fit). I have plenty of equipment here so I can also keep up my land-based training. How can I keep my paddle fitness? It’s been sitting with me since Day 1.

Could I create my own waka ama paddle erg?

The last day before the rāhui started I sent a call for help to my friend – “Do you, by any chance, have a spare paddle handle?’ I was able to pick it up from outside their house (thanks Carmel & Pete). I initially set it up with an elasticised exercise band attached to a post on the deck. It wasn’t great. The pull of the band was so strong, I couldn’t get the ‘catch’ I wanted. I could just see my technique going to pot.

Get creative, re-think, re-imagine

Normally I would run off to Mitre 10 to buy what I needed. I can’t do that now so I have to make do with what I have. Last night I had a brainwave. What if I used my cross-core trainer as a pulley. I was up until late last night working with various bits of exercise equipment until I thought I had a solution.

This morning I put it into practice. With various hand made tools and a pair of long tweezers I managed to get a strap around one of the planks in the deck. It turned out I had to replace the ropes on the cross core for a single piece of rope because the connections got in the way. Eventually I had a working model.

I tried both a 10kg and a 6kg kettle bell for the weight, but the pull was too full-on for me so I ended up with a 3kg dumb bell. It is just enough resistance. Any more and it was difficult to get my ‘catch’. Paddle change-overs are a bit different. I guess I’ll get the hang of it.

I will need to use the paddle erg either early in the morning or later at night as it’s a bit hot on the deck during the middle of the day, but I now have something that looks like it will work well for me.

What you will need:

  • a pulley of some sort (or even just a carabiner) suspended from a height
  • a length of rope
  • a weight
  • a tether for the bottom firmly fixed to the ground, deck or where ever you are setting up
  • a couple more carabiners
  • a paddle handle, broom handle or something for the paddle shaft
  • a waka seat (I used the outside footstool – not the most comfortable but it works and is about the right height)
  • a yoga mat so your feet don’t slip on the deck
  • maybe some talcum powder to make the rope run more smoothly
  • lots of ingenuity

Work with what you have. Good Luck!

Special thanks to:

  • Carmel & Pete Barrett for the paddle shaft – just in time!
  • Rick Weldon & Melissa Hutchinson for the outdoor furniture
  • Toby of Moana Sups for the inspiration of your SUP Erg
  • Va’a Factory – I love my singlet!
  • To all those of you out there that are running with this rāhui and doing amazing things, becoming very creative and providing so much inspiration and laughter.


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