NZ Kayak Marathon memories

Ahead of the 2020 New Zealand Kayak Marathon Championships at the Waitemata Canoe and Multisport Club in West Auckland a trio paddlers offer their perspective on the value and benefit of entering the annual event, which takes place on March 28/29.


As a world-class sprint paddler in the Noughties, Ben Fouhy was among the finest K1 1000m performers on the planet.

However, the Kiwi believes a key element to his success was forged as an endurance paddler developing a strong aerobic capacity, which allowed him take on the very best.

A multisport athlete in his younger days, Ben later went on to win the 2003 World K1 1000m crown and the following year added Olympic K1 1000m silver to his impressive resume. 

Yet he never shied away from endurance paddling, winning the New Zealand Marathon title and grabbing a bronze medal at the 2005 World Marathon Championships in Perth.

“Having that endurance background was fundamental for me as a sprint paddler,” explains Ben. “There are many factors which enabled me to become a top-class paddler but having that aerobic ability was critical. Some paddlers could annihilate me in the shorter sprints and others could thrash me in the gym but I was often able to beat them in the 1000m. For me, that was down to my aerobic conditioning.” 

With the 2020 NZ Kayak Marathon Championships looming later this month in Auckland, Ben would encourage all paddlers to challenge themselves by entering the event.

“As a paddler you want to be constantly pushing your endurance and aerobic fitness,” he says. “You can train hard, but that is tough to replicate the intensity of racing. The NZ Kayak Marathon Champs will make paddlers tougher and fitter.

“Marathon races take place over a few hours, there can be full for highs and lows and it is possible to claw your way back into contention. There is always a race within a race.” 

Ben’s Top Marathon Tip: 

Try to simulate in training the changes of pace of a marathon by racing your training buddies towards various landmarks during your endurance paddles. 


As a former world K1 1000m champion and Ocean Racing Surf Ski champion there are very few paddle disciplines the versatile and talented Teneale Hatton has not excelled at.

So it comes as little surprise, Teneale has also claimed four national marathon titles as well as the World U23 marathon crown in Copenhagen in 2013.

The 30-year-old Aucklander started competing in marathon racing around ten years ago to supplement her endurance and general fitness and she has grown to love the “cool vibe” of the discipline.

“Marathons are so much fun,” explains Teneale. “They are very tactical and in some respects the challenge is to paddle as fast as possible while doing as little work as you can. The lead is always changing and it can be a bit of a game. The turns can be used as a place to drop paddlers while the portages are a cool element to marathon racing. It takes a lot of skill to nail it, but get the portage right and it can win a paddler the race.”

Teneale also insists that athletes with different qualities can prosper in marathon racing.

“You have strong paddlers but other less so strong paddlers who can still keep themselves in contention by sitting on the wash well and with good ability in transition,” she adds.

Teneale explains that as marathon races are often in excess of 20km they represent a vigorous workout and the NZ Marathon Championships on Henderson Creek on the Te Atatu Peninsula later this month is not one to be missed.

“Most clubs carry out long paddles, so the distance should not be intimidating,” explains Teneale. “It is super fun, very strategic and another avenue to explore if sprinting is not your forte. I also find the marathon crowd is very different. Supporters can get much closer to the action (than for a sprint race) and they’ll give you a big cheer through transition. That extra factor of having a team-mate hand out snacks and water adds a team element too.”

Teneale’s Top Marathon Tip: 

Race smarter not harder. Try to make the other paddlers work harder than yourself. Use the turns and portages to break away from the opposition and when the opportunity presents itself to break clear – go for it!


With a background in marathon racing spanning more than three decades few paddlers in New Zealand have a great depth of experience in the discipline than Garth Spencer.

Raised in South Africa, Garth was first introduced to marathon racing from the age of 14 and for six months of the year would commit to the country’s highly competitive calendar of events. 

Now based in Auckland, Garth, who last year won the world M45-49 K2 marathon title in China alongside Vaughan Reed, believes marathon racing offers multiple attractions.

“Compete in a sprint race and there is no coming back from a bad start, however marathon racing is much more forgiving,” he explains.

“You can make a bad start or make a mistake and you have time to recover. 

“I also like the fact with marathon racing it takes a certain tenacity and durability to pick it up and wait for other people to make mistakes – it becomes a real battle of minds. It is very strategic. You need to think about placement at every turn and whether you can get to the portage first. You have to think about when to go hard and when to sit back.” 

Garth believes other factors also make marathon racing an enticing proposition. It offers paddlers of all standards the chance to line up alongside a broad cross section of racers, so it is possible to be on the start line alongside world champions or Olympic medallists.

Meanwhile, the close proximity of the spectators to the action can make marathon racing a “real crowd pleaser,” according to Garth. 

This year’s New Zealand Kayak Marathon Championships also offer the additional carrot of potentially featuring on the international stage – which is not an opportunity that should be overlooked.

“The top two in the U18, U23 and open races at NZ Marathon nationals will win selection for the World Marathon Canoe Championships in Norway later this year (August 27-30),” he adds. “I believe marathon racing must offer one of the most accessible pathways to representing your country on the world stage.”

Garth’s Top Marathon Tip:

Make sure you get a comfortable seat and when you do, hang on to it! Also during a race make sure you get your nutrition right.

Entry Details for the 2020 NZ Kayak Marathon Championships: 

***Note, any paddler who performs well at the marathon nationals will earn the opportunity to represent NZ at the World Marathon Championships in Norway. The top two finishers in the K1 and K2 events at U18, U23 and Open categories will earn selection. Entry to the Masters’ world champs is open, so any masters competitors who wish to travel to Norway are welcome to do so.

Marathon Selection Policy