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Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf plays host to the some of the finest water-men and –women this weekend in the 2016 FLOW Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour, which is attracting a large contingent of offshore world class paddlers.

“The event is rather unique in that it sees a large field of surfski paddlers from the ocean-racing (marathon event) and surf lifesaving (sprint distance) disciplines putting it on the line, alongside celebrated world-class waka-ama and SUP paddlers on the downwind course, 26km in length, over the Hauraki Gulf.” states Race Director Garth Spencer.

New Zealand's Teneale Hatton, 2015 womens World Series champion
New Zealand’s Teneale Hatton, 2015 womens World Series champion

“New Zealand has a hard-fought profile on the world paddling stage, forged by our icon Ian Ferguson, with 5 Olympic medals in canoeing (4 gold). This tradition has persisted, particularly with our woman paddlers, like golden-girl Lisa Carrington, and the depth in our young paddlers on the world stage is incredible. It was amazing to see our own Rachel Clark and Teneale Hatton battle it out for podium presence at the 2015 World Championships in Tahiti, all in pumping downwind conditions!”

Cory Hill, 2015 World Series champion.
Australia’s Cory Hill, 2015 World Series champion.

Vying for honours in the first race of the 2016 World Surfski Series we have an amazing 20 Tahitian paddlers , and men’s 2015 World Surfski Series Champion Cory Hill, 2015 Silver Medallist Michael Booth (both of Aussie origin) committed to giving the King of the Harbour title a crack.

“Along with current World Champs Cory Hill and Michael Booth, legendary surfski world title holder Dean Gardiner (Australia), Piha-girl Annabel Anderson (reigning Stand Up Paddling World champ), young Koha-Alofa Vitolio waka-ama paddler with an age group World Champ title, among others eying out their race entry options, this year’s event promises to be a veritable ‘waka-pedia’ who’s-who’ of the paddling world!”

Race Director Garth Spencer is a self-confessed paddle-freak who himself placed “a very lucky 3rd” in last year’s event, and who can’t let a day pass without a quality session in his surfski on the harbour. “Having lived on Waiheke Island for 15 years, I just want to share the joy that is paddling into Auckland in a stomping NE!”

The ‘Waihetian Windrunner’ is a favourite course for locals in the right conditions, and with plenty of support from sponsor Explore Group ferries, this is one of four course options aimed at ensuring the racers have every opportunity to ride the ocean swell to reach the speeds that make downwind racing so popular.

“There is a real buzz with our younger boys and girls getting ready for Rio, the large international World Series paddler contingent, and with this being the National Championship event, all eyes are on us as we start to get ready for the World Masters Games next year.” Working closely with Canoe Racing New Zealand, and Waka Ama New Zealand, Garth and Pacific Ocean Paddlers are the organising force behind the surfski events for the World Masters Games in 2017.

With principal sponsor FLOW Kayaks giving away a brand new surfski with $4,000, Fergs Kayaks giving away a brand new SUP, and a total prize pool of $15,000, the event is made possible through the generous support of Good Health Choices magazine, Vaikobi, Strongarm, William Goodfellow and his adventurous team at Explore Group, Balance Sports Nutrition, Canoe Racing New Zealand, FENN New Zealand, Art-in-surf, PaddlePro.co.nz and long-time Pacific Ocean Paddler supporter Star Kayaks.

See www.pacificoceanpaddlers.com to find out how you can get amongst it!