Ben Keys will aim to tighten his grip on the 2020-21 Darcy Price Series at the James Bhutty Moore-Morial surf ski race in Bay of Plenty on Saturday.
The Ocean Ski Canterbury paddler was an impressive winner of the opening round of the series, to be crowned King of the Harbour in December.
And now Ben returns to the competitive surf ski environment for round two of the series, seeking to defend his title over the 32km course which runs from Maketu 2 Mount.
The race has attracted more than 100 entrants and also looking for a strong showing will be the consistent Toby Brooke (Kupe-Wellington), who finished third in this race 12 months ago.
Watch out too for Waka Ama star Tupu King, a recent convert to surf ski paddling. Tupu triumphed in an outrigger 12 months ago but on his surf ski debut at the King and Queen of the Harbour in December he impressed to place sixth.
Now based in Papamoa, the race is on home ground for the powerfully built paddler and it will be fascinating to see how he performs on Saturday.
Despite the absence of 2020 surf ski victor Rachel Clarke, a strong line up has been assembled in the women’s event.
Danika Mowlem, who placed second in the Queen of the Harbour, recently rolled her ankle, but will be lining up at the Mount for a crack over the 32km distance.
Also competing with be Aucklander Elise Legarth, the third place finisher at the King and Queen of the Harbour, and Carly Keys (Ocean Ski Canterbury), who banked third in this race 12 months ago. Experienced Samoan paddler Anne Cairns is also entered.
Among the leading contenders in the masters 40-49 category are Auckland-based duo Garth Spencer and Jeremy Kuggeleijn, who last year finished fourth and fifth, respectively, overall.
Leading the entries among the 50-59 men’s masters division is Oskar Stielau, who secured second spot in his division last year.
“Traditionally we have a lot South Westerlies in February and that is why once again Maketu to Mount will be the race route,” explains race organiser Paul Roozendaal.
“Given it is a memorial race for James Moore there is a nice synergy that the race will be run from Maketu to Mount because that was his last paddle before he died.
“The race is always special. It is well-run event and that is why the top paddlers are always attracted to the event, and I expect it to be no different this year.
Registration will take place at Pilot Bay from 7am with the race briefing up at Maketu from 9am. The outrigger canoe start is at 10am followed by the surf ski race at 10.15am.
It is compulsory for all paddlers to have a phone onboard. You must have the Safe TRX app registered to race for gps tracking. No app will mean time penalties.
Online entries can be accepted until midnight Thursday here
On the day entries are also accepted.
Photos: Georgia Schofield