New King and Queen crowned at NZ’s biggest ocean ski event

186 paddlers lined up at the Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour race at Takapuna Beach on Saturday, making it the largest ocean ski event ever held in New Zealand. The competition was hot with Jayden Murphy and Danielle McKenzie taking their maiden wins in this iconic event.

A close race around the entire 18km course, the top 5 ocean ski men all finished within just 61 seconds of each other. Not often do you see ocean ski specialists, sprint specialists, waka specialists and surf lifesaving specialists all in contention but this was the battle on the water. In the end it was the young 20year old Jayden Murphy who made the gap to hit the beach first in a time of 1hour 18minutes and 54 seconds. Gene Prato was 6 seconds behind in 2nd place followed by Tupuria King in 3rd, a further 7 seconds back. Ben Keys and Quaid Thompson rounded out the top 5 in the overall male ocean ski.

Jayden, while beating out paddlers with more ocean ski experience, is no stranger to winning. He won the  Open Ironman title at the 2024 SLSNZ Nationals, is on the Surf Lifesaving NZ High Performance squad and represented NZ at the Junior Lifesaving World champs where he won 2 medals.

“King of the Harbour was my first ocean ski race after coming from a clubbie background.” said Jayden.

“It was super fun to get out there and push the body over a longer race than I would usually do. The pace was pretty hot! Little bumps on the downwind leg were pretty technical but made for good conditions.”

Jayden was pushed hard and impressed by the competition. “It’s cool to see the sport is in a good place here with plenty of depth in the fields. This was proven with just how close the top 5 were after 18km of racing.”

Jayden was not first to the beach however, with mixed doubles team Avaya (Nathan Fa’avae and Sophie Hart) taking the overall line honours in a time of 1.18.24.

The result in the womens race was not surprising given the pedigree of Danielle McKenzie. The 2019 ocean ski world champion was at the top of sport for a few years before switching her focus to sprint in 2023. However this was her first Queen of the Harbour event and on home waters.

She led from the start and came home in a time of 1.24.29. Taranaki’s Rebecca Cole was 2nd with under 23 paddler Isla Westlake taking home the bronze.

“It’s pretty special to take my first title in this event- it has a lot of history with strong female paddlers dominating, most recently Rachel Mayhew winning 10 in a row.” said Danielle. “I grew up paddling along this coastline so know it pretty well. I knew the race would be super fast starting with the men so I made sure that once I was on the water I was ready to race.”

Danielle and Jayden both win trips to Tahiti to compete in the Te Aito Surfski event in August, thanks to Air Tahiti Nui and the Fédération Polynésienne de Kayak Surfski.

In the other paddling craft, Manutea Million and Jasmin Stevenson were overall winners in the Waka ama divisions, while Rosara Davis and Jan Dunlop took home the SUP titles for 2024.

Conditions couldn’t have been more different to last year’s 30knot downwind ocean adventure, with clear blue skies and light breeze. To maximise the conditions, organisers opted for a triangle course, taking advantage of the forecasted southerly wind and outgoing tide. Starting from Takapuna Boating Club, the course headed south to North Head, then northward for the longest leg back past Takapuna, before a final turn for a short leg back to the clubhouse.

It was ideal conditions for less experienced ocean paddlers to compete, and the 3km and 6km short course options off the beach provided great opportunities for younger and newer paddlers to race.

The Auckland event was the final race in the 2023/24 Darcy Price NZ Ocean Ski Series. Gene Prato took out the men’s series for the first time, while Danika Mowlem won the series for the 3rd consecutive season. Dan Bremner and Claire Sykes won the double ski series.

Congratulations to all paddlers and place getters, and thank you to the event  organisers and volunteers for helping make this event happen.