Waka (ancestral canoes) and water are central to Māori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand, yet Māori have disproportionately high rates of drowning.
New research has begun to examine Māori and Indigenous understandings of water safety; however, Indigenous approaches to water safety continue to be an underdeveloped area, particularly in a sport for development (SFD) context. In this study, we demonstrate how waka as an “Indigenous-plus” approach to SFD can provide important insights for a field in which Indigenous views are often absent or marginalized. Underpinned by a kaupapa Māori approach (generally, but not exclusively, research by Māori, for Māori, with Māori), we surveyed 74 future aquatic educators of primarily Pākehā descent (New Zealand European) who participated in a Māori water safety wānanga (cultural space of learning) led by Hauteruruku ki Puketeraki Waka Club, an Indigenous canoe club based in New Zealand’s South Island. Through our thematic analysis, we found that the participants identified the role of waka as fundamental to learning Indigenous Māori water safety in an Aotearoa, New Zealand context. In this paper, we argue that waka provides a vehicle for educating our future aquatic educators about Māori water safety, which will support more meaningful drowning prevention for all New Zealanders.