We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Morgan Haakma

Nov. 17, 2017

Accomplished wakeboarder Morgan Haakma ’20, an exchange student from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, has been riding a wave of success at UNCW.

“I chose UNCW to do my exchange because I hadn't been to North Carolina before. It’s on the coast, and there are awesome wakeboarding opportunities here,” she said. “I also wanted to experience what attending a university is like in America compared to New Zealand.”

She discovered that UNCW is a thriving and engaging campus that embraces its international students.

“UNCW has such a fantastic community vibe,” Haakma said.” One of my favorite things about UNCW is that so many people roll around on bikes and skateboards!”

She also found her place with the UNCW wakeboard club. The team helped her improve her skills and provided her support, Haakma said.

In August, Haakma took a road trip to Toronto, Canada, to compete in the 2017 Nautique WWA Wakeboard World Championships. Haakma won the Amateur Women's Division, her first world title.

“It was the best I had ever ridden at a competition; I rang my dad as soon as I got out of the water and couldn't stop crying I was so happy,” she recalled. “Then the results came out about an hour later, and I found I had won my first world title, so had to ring my parents again and wake them up to tell them the news!”

Haakma, who grew up in a watersports family, began competing at the age of 10. She is the recipient of the University of Waikato Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship, which is a prestigious scholarship awarded to students who excel in leadership, academics and either a sport or creative art.

Haakma, who has studied exercise science and recreation at UNCW, has loved her time in North Carolina, she said. She will be returning to New Zealand in December to receive her bachelor’s degree in health, sport and human performance. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in sports science in New Zealand.

“Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, and I have made some amazing friends, both international students and American,” she said. “I have also had the opportunity to have a host family and a mentor and have really enjoyed spending time with them, getting to know UNCW and learning more about America in general. I came here not really knowing anyone, and now feel like I have a North Carolina family.”

-- Venita Jenkins

-- PHOTO COURTESY: Cole Woolard