Siblings play a vital role even though they may be oblivious to the impact they have on their brothers and sisters.
Mahaki and Aurora Akauola are a testimony to that after their recent exploits in the culturally sound sport of waka ama in Canada recently.
The brother and sister from Napier returned from the five-day International Va'a Federation world championship in Calgary in August with medals to show that following someone like sheep doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.
"She started paddling so I just tagged along with her," said Mahaki yesterday from Palmerston North, where he's studying for a degree in Maori visual arts at Massey University.
"I thought I could be better at this than anything else I had played."
The 18-year-old former Napier Boys' High School pupil, who played rugby and basketball at school, caught the waka ama bug at Clive River after coach and family friend Trevor Taurima asked Aurora and Mahaki to jump into a single-hull waka about three years ago with other members of the Heretaunga Ararau Club.
"I just loved being out in the water and paddling. It's competitive and good fun," Mahaki said after returning with team gold and silver medals with his Vaka Manu team based in Manukau, in South Auckland.
Invited like Aurora, 17, to qualify for the worlds, he was part of the successful six-seater, double-hull waka ama crew who won the J19 V12 500m race against six other rivals from traditional powerhouses such as Tahiti and Hawaii as well as Russia, Italy and France.
The Vaka manu crew had to settle for second place in the 500m V6 race.
Aurora was part of the Top Knots team who were third in the six-person waka.
"I was hooked to the sport from the first day. It was just the feeling of paddling," says the Napier Girls' High School seventh-former, who with Mahaki went to Tahiti last year to compete in a friendly 44km race for youth.
"We did it in five to seven- kilometre stages with six paddlers jumping in and out at every stage in 12-man teams," Mahaki explained.
Needless to say, the pair thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie the sport offers and the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world.
They now have their sights set on going to the next world championship in Rio, Brazil, in 2014.
So how does Aurora feel about her brother, who picked up a paddle well after her, having accomplished more on the water than her?
"I guess there's some sibling rivalry but I'm so happy for my brother, who has worked so hard to make it."
Mahaki thanked husband-and-wife coaches Maika and Roni Nuku, too, for helping them with technique, fitness and confidence.
For the record, Aurora competed in the single waka and is ranked 12th in the world.
It wasn't cheap either, costing $6200 each after sponsorship and fundraising efforts and parents' contributions.
So did mother Vanessa Wilson and dad Maliu Akauola, of Auckland, feel the pinch?
"Very much so but it's worth it," Wilson said with a laugh.