An attractive location on the Wairoa River this weekend will play host to the 2021 New Zealand Kayak Marathon Championships in Tauranga, which promises to serve up a genuine test of skill and endurance for all competing paddlers.
Hosted by the Bay of Plenty Canoe Club, the event organiser Chris Emmett is optimistic the race route will prove a real winner for all those competitors taking on the challenge in race distances ranging from 6.5km to 26km.
“We are just a small club and we’ve hosted the 10km national champs but we were keen to build on that,” explains Chris, who himself will be paddling in the K2 masters event.
“We think we have a really good venue. Paddlers will find the river conducive to fun and quality racing. They’ll be lots of places to overtake and enjoy a good paddle.”
Races will take place over one lap to four laps depending on their individual division and Chris insists paddlers will face variable conditions.
“Paddlers will set off from the club and head up river for 2.25km for the first turnaround,” he adds. “The outward leg goes from deep water through the narrows and then up through a shallower sand bar section and then a deep section up top at the turnaround.
“This means paddlers have to read the river and people will find that quite a challenge. Paddlers will then have to navigate their way back down before hitting the 150m portage at the club. The portage has a dog leg along grass down to the pontoon at the south end.
“The south end is then fairly straight forward – a 1.25km stretch down river in deep water, down to the turn and back up the start/finish line.
“We know the river and conditions are great, it is quite sheltered when it is windy. We hope this weekend will allow paddlers to experience a world-class course.”
Last year’s New Zealand Kayak Marathon Championships was cancelled because of Covid and leading the entries in a highly-competitive open men’s K1 division is Quaid Thompson.
The Poverty Bay paddler is among the leading endurance paddlers in New Zealand but he will face strong opposition led by Waitara’s Ben McCallum (see below), who is in good form after winning the 12km K1 at last month’s New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships.
Also entered in the open men’s K1 is Garth Spencer, the winner of the masters 45-54 division at the 2019 New Zealand Kayak Marathon Champs. The in-form North Shore paddler placed third overall in the open men’s K1 at the New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships and offered further evidence of his current shape winning bronze in the open men’s race at last weekend’s New Zealand Surf Ski Championships in Whakatane.
Look too out for Bay of Plenty Canoe Club paddler Sam Newlands while waka ama star Tupuria King – who last week triumphed at the New Zealand Surf Ski Championships in Whakatane in only his third ever surf ski – is also entered in the K1 open event.
Fellow waka ama paddler Julius Peterson (North Shore) is another who will take to the start line.
In the open women’s K1 division defending champion Kim Thompson (Poverty Bay) will seek to retain the crown she won on home waters in Gisborne two years ago.
The masters (45-54) category will also provide some highly competitive racing with the experienced and classy North Shore paddler Vaughan Reed entered. Ant Rowan (Bay of Plenty) – who has recently relocated from South Africa – could be another to watch.
Reed and Spencer – the men’s 45-54 world K2 masters champions – team up once again, and the pair will take all the beating in the open men’s K2 race.
Three age-group champions from the 2019 nationals will also be in action – albeit all now competing in an older age division; Angus Baker (Poverty Bay) in the boys U16 event, Daniel Brown (Hawkes Bay) in men’s U18 action and Genna Robertson (Poverty Bay) in the women’s U18 event.
The K1 action takes place 1.30pm on Saturday with all the K2 action on Sunday starting from 9.30am. The K1 men’s and women’s tyros (U12) and U14s compete over one-lap (6.5km). While the K1 U16 Division take on the two-lap 13km challenge. The K1 and K2 men’s and women’s under-18 paddlers and K1 and K2 men’s and women’s masters (35-44) (45-54) and (55-64) compete over the 19.5km three-lap distance. The men’s and women’s K1 and K2 paddlers will take on a 26km test over four laps.
The masters +65 paddlers compete on the two-lap 13km route with no portages.
Races will also take place for multisport, surfski and oceanski craft.
Full marathon entries here