The inaugural Kahawai Paddling Champs – a brand new Canoe Racing NZ initiative designed to help develop the next generation of paddlers – is set to launch tomorrow (Saturday May 8) on Auckland’s Takapuna Beach.
The exciting and dynamic new paddle sport format has attracted entries aged ten to 17, who will compete across four age divisions; U12, U14, U16 and U18.
Competitors will race around one or more buoys and back to a finish line adjacent to the start on one of the Paddler-X courses in short, sharp races which are expected to last between two and four minutes in length.
Event organiser Danika Mowlem of CRNZ said: “For our first Kahawai Paddling Champs we’ve had a good take up from clubs in Auckland, with particular support from coach Gavin Elmiger at the North Shore club, who has incorporated the event into his training programme for a large group of his paddlers.
“We have a nice mix of experienced paddlers to relative newbies and others who have just finished the CRNZ Learn to Paddle course. For some this will be their first ever paddling event, so we hope they will enjoy a good introduction to the competitive side of the sport.
“We hope that everyone enjoys the new format and sees its potential. Our expectation is this event can allow sprint and surf athletes to come together, which will allow the paddling community to grow and become even stronger. We hope the paddlers will not only learn from the day but have lots of fun.”
The North Shore Canoe Club head the entrants with 13 paddlers competing on Saturday and head coach Gavin Elmiger is enthused by the event.
“The Kahawai Paddling Championships represents another variation of paddle sports and the greater variation we have, the greater likelihood we can draw people into paddle sports from a wider demographic.
“We don’t have too many competitive opportunities, so any paddling event where athletes have the opportunity to do what they love or try something that they may fall in love with, I would really encourage. It is a good opportunity to race, have fun and challenge yourself.”
The Kahawai brand and concept were developed as a joint collaboration between CRNZ and Jamie Boynton, a talented Māori artist and designer from Whakatāne who was recommended by two-time Olympic champion Lisa Carrington. The event format has been developed with the help of a number of members of the paddle sports community.
Tom Ashley CEO of CRNZ said: “Our goal with Kahawai is to create a cool, enjoyable new paddling format to bridge the gap between the different paddling disciplines and grow our sport in NZ. The racing will bring the excitement of surf “around the cans” racing and reward both skill and physicality, while also being accessible for new participants.
“The new Kahawai kayaks will be rewarding to paddle, and allow paddlers to enjoy a range of conditions. This will allow clubs, schools and other groups all around New Zealand to access paddling, whether they paddle on lakes, rivers or on the ocean.
“The event this weekend will test our concept and we’re looking forward to getting feedback from paddlers. We’re stoked that we have a great group of paddlers coming along on Saturday, and grateful that members of our High Performance women’s squad are supporting the event and concept by coming along to help.”
Registration takes place at 8.30am followed by race briefing at 9.15am. The first race will get underway at 9.30am. The day will encompass both heats and finals.
For more on the Kahawai paddler concept go here
Images: Georgia Schofield