Rowing NZ wants to add something new to its talent pool


The search is on. Far, wide and into the future.

This summer Rowing New Zealand is turning up the dial to get more Para Rowers into the sport.

You’ll see the flyers around and hopefully people will scan its QR code to start their rowing journey.

Kate Adams, Rowing NZ’s Community & Schools Co-ordinator is pumped about putting the spotlight on this part of the sport.

“We don't have any Sophie Pascoes or Lisa Adams of the world, all these amazing para-athletes that are household names,” says Kate.

“Para sports has never been more in the public eye than what it has been in the last eight to 10 years.”

It’s time for rowing to join the party.

“We have the ability to slot right in there and become a powerhouse,” says Kate.

So, a lot of work has gone in over the winter to be able to deliver on the promise.

Fourteen clubs have signed up around the country to offer a para rowing programme.


St George's, West End, Bay of Plenty Coast, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Waikato, Clifton, Whakatane, Hawkes Bay, Taupo, Union Christchurch, Ashburton, Port Chalmers and Invercargill.

Seventeen coaches are signed up as well, including Gavin Foulsham, the Hawke’s Bay sculler who made the A Final of the Men’s PR2 Single Sculls at the 2019 World Championships.

Gavin’s also part of a new eight-strong committee which meets every six weeks to keep all the behind-the-scenes stuff happening.

The relevance of a committee could slide past. But it adds credibility and a line of credit to the whole project.


Gavin Foulsham PR2 NZ athlete competing at 2019 World Rowing Championships in the PR2 Men's Single Sculls.

“The funding's out there, we just need to show that we've got the athletes that deserve that funding," says Kate. “There's no reason why in the next few years we can’t be celebrating our New Zealand rowing team, that includes three or four para rowers as well. No reason.”

One of the obvious candidates is 18-year-old Isabel Wall from Ashburton. She lost a lower leg as a baby and is a champion in both para and able-bodied rowing.

It’s a perfect time to talk about the future, she’s just finishing Year 13 at Ashburton College where she was just made Dux and is in the midst of exams.

Rowing helps keep her centred.

“I feel like I do sit at home and study and then I get really stressed out, and then if leave the house and go out rowing, I come back and I'm like, ‘God, what was I even worrying for?"

Like older sister Veronica, who’s just graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biology, Isabel is keen on health sciences at Otago University.

She’s top of Kate Adams’ list at the moment as far as Para Rowing goes, aiming for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

There’s just one sticking point. Isabel’s classified PR3. The only boats available to her at the moment are a mixed double or mixed coxed four.


Isabel Wall, PR3 athlete competing at 2023 NZ Rowing Championships for Ashburton Rowing Club. Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography



Use of at least one leg, trunk and arms. Also, for those with visual (intellectual impairments not at World Champs and Paralympics) impairments. Rowed in a standard boat with a sliding seat. seats.


Only use of trunk and arm muscles. The boat has fixed seat.


Limited trunk control. Boat has fixed seat and rower is strapped at upper chest level to only allow shoulder and arm movements.

Kate is on the case.

“I'm trying find someone else that I can match her up with, that she can train with. It's incredibly difficult because they need to be the same classification, but I am in contact with the  Parafeds and they are looking at doing some talent ID to help me find someone suitable.”

Kate is stoked with other progress. All the big regattas this season will for the first time include an 1000m Open Para single sculls.

She’s also been working the phones overseas.

“I've had a couple of meetings with Rebecca Orr, who's the World Rowing Para Commissioner. She’s bending over backwards to help us get things up and running. She's introducing me to other federations around the world to help me get contacts and ideas about what to do.

“She's also pushing for para rowing events to be introduced into the world age group regattas like Under 19s and 23s.”

And then there’s Kate’s “B-HAG”. Another little acronym, which was dreamed up by two American self-help gurus in the mid-1990s.

“The goal is to have Para events at Maadi. Realistically, I'm hoping 2026 when we can actually go to the schools AGM and have those races included in the programme, showing students there is an option for you to do a sport from school, community to high performance...from the start all the way through. It'll be so exciting. That's my Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”

CAMBRIDGE, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 19:  New Zealand adaptive rower Danny McBride poses during a portrait session at Lake Karapiro on April 19, 2012 in Cambridge, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Danny McBride, PR1 NZ athlete who competed at 2010, 2011 World Rowing Championships and 2012 London Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

Interested in para rowing?

Register your interest via the button below and Rowing NZ will take it from there.

Whether it be a weekly row out with the club just to keep fit or racing down a course at one of the regattas around NZ, we have something to suit everyone.


Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.