​“Like a dream. Like a movie playing out in front of our eyes”

Despite being located beside one of the world’s most picturesque rowing lakes (just ask Emma Twigg), Twizel Area School’s rowing programme has always been small. Understandable when the school has a roll of just 200 students.

Before 2023 the last time the school raced at an Aon Maadi Regatta was 2019, when just two rowers made the trip North for the regatta. At the beginning of the season, it was looking like another small squad for Twizel Area School. Six rowers came along to an open day held by the school and Twizel Rowing Club. However, these six must have quickly spread the word at school and soon more and more potential rowers turned up to training. Eventually there were 15 - the largest squad the school has had in years, if not ever.

Coached by Kelvin Maker, who himself represents Twizel Rowing Club at masters level, saw that some of the young rowers showed promise. “The main thing we wanted to make sure was that the rowers were having fun.” said Kelvin. “They all get along so well and are such a great group.” And it seems fun was the main driver behind success, as the young rowers began to push to the top of their events in early season regattas.

The 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta was never in the picture for any rower who signed up to row for Twizel Area School. The cost of flights, accommodation, boat transport and everything else that comes with a 10-day trip was too much, and Kelvin didn't want to put that sort of pressure on parents who were already paying the $500 sub fee. But throughout the season the rowers began to put pressure on Kelvin. “We told them if they medalled at South Island Secondary Schools, we would investigate going to the Aon Maadi Regatta, but we never thought it was going to be possible.”

When the school picked up two gold medals and one silver medal at the South Island Secondary Schools regatta, Kelvin knew he had to act. Not only was he getting pressure from the rowers, but the community began to chime in as well. It was then he put it back to the Twizel community and asked them to “put their money where their mouths are” and that is exactly what happened. The community raised enough money to cover the travel and expenses of all 17 team members during their stay in Cambridge. “It is like a dream, like a movie playing out in front of our eyes” says Kelvin. The team is completely overwhelmed with the support they received. “Never in a million years did we think this would actually happen.” It wasn't just local rowers who contributed either. People from all over the town who have never rowed in their lives contributed toward the team making the trip North, and teacher in charge, Sarah Henderson, has been keeping the community up to date with posts on the Twizel Community Facebook page.

Local rowing clubs have also been instrumental in getting the Twizel Area School team to the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta. Many schools and clubs in the Otago Rowing Association offered help including lending boats and boat transport from the South Island.

A big thank you to everyone who has played a part in getting Twizel Area School to the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta. We are so glad to have the small but mighty school racing on Lake Karāpiro.