Five reasons to paddle the Windy City Downwind

The Windy City Downwind race in Wellington is a welcome new addition to the 2021-22 Darcy Price Series. We identify five good reasons to give the October 30 event a crack in New Zealand’s capital city.

Enjoy the (almost guaranteed) downwind conditions

Well known as one of the windiest cities in the world, Wellington in the spring is notorious for its blustery and consistent Northerly winds. Failing that a bone-chilling southerly is likely blow – either way organisers have it covered with up to five potential race routes.

“At that time of year the northerlies are often pumping and when we took a look at past weather patterns, we found that October/November are the windiest months,” adds Toby, who finished third overall in the men’s open division in the 2020-21 Darcy Price Series.

“While nothing is certain you would be pretty unlucky not to get a windy day in Wellington at that time of year, and for competitors from outside the region it is the chance to try something in fun downwind conditions.” 

Wide reaching appeal

– As experienced paddlers we quickly forget 

  • • learning to paddle a ~50cm wide kayak is hard
  • • learning how to catch waves is hard
  • • paddling several kilometres off-shore is scary  
  • • 20+ kilometres is a long way

Especially when watching big wave legends like Teneale Hatton, Garth Spencer and Rachel Clarke who make it look so easy! The Windy City Downwind event is designed with a lower barrier to entry than existing races  to allow a wider range of paddlers to enjoy the sport we love.

The course length of 16km (short course is 11-12km) is a lot less challenging than many other races in the series. A recreational division has also been set up for those not so interested in racing and simply going out for a paddle.

Meanwhile, in an effort to generate more even competition, prizes will be offered in different surf ski boats. 

“The results of the series will still count towards all the traditional divisions – U23, open, masters etc. However, we will also have a bit of fun with three different surf ski division – for the elites of no more than 45cms wide, the intermediates of 45-49.99cm (includes spec skis) and the recreational paddlers of 50cm wide. Some guys will have just started the sport but up against top quality experienced paddlers. This is especially true in the masters divisions so we thought can we add extra divisions to ensure more fair competition.” 

Double surfskis, waka single and wake double division will also be included.

Capital gains

The race has the added attraction of being based close to the city centre of one of New Zealand’s most vibrant cities.

“The race starts a 30-40 minute shuttle ride from the city centre. Wellington is such a cool city to explore with many exciting things to do.”

Good timing and cheap as 

Besides the spring timing of the event – in the hope of hitting those favourable northerlies or southerlies – the event works well as the second event in the series positioned between the Poor Knights Crossing in September and King and Queen of the Harbour.

“We also feel it fits well within the canoe sprint and surf lifesaving calendar,” adds Toby. “So, we hope to encourage some surf paddlers and sprint paddlers to come along and use the race as good training.

“We’ve also made the event really cheap for under-23 paddlers, who can enter at an early bird price of $10!”

Help grow the sport in the capital 

The idea of hosting a surf ski race in Wellington was dreamed up by Toby Brooke and a small bunch of Kupe Canoe Club paddlers travelling to and from races as part of the Darcy Price Series. 

“We thought how cool it would be organise a race where we didn’t have to travel,” explains Toby, who won open men’s race at the 2021 Queen and King of the Bay race in Nelson.

“Myself Jonno Alsop and Ross Heald then put together a plan and decided on some course options in the Wellington Harbour. It is quite a sheltered harbour, so it doesn’t get huge swell but we saw it as an opportunity for more people in the Wellington area to become involved in surf ski racing.”

Entry details here

More race info here