Paddler Series Ramps Up

The New Zealand Virtual Surfski Championships has so far exceeded all expectations. With just 11 days remaining in the month-long competition we pose ten still to be answered questions.

How many more countries will join the party?

The range of overseas entries has been eye-catchingly impressive. Besides the Kiwi contingent, paddlers from the USA, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Germany and Samoa have all submitted times. Surf ski racers from Hong Kong are also likely to feature before the closure of the event on June 14 – which would guarantee representation from four continents. Pretty cool, huh?

Austin or Nordin?

A pair of world-class overseas paddlers dominate the standings in the open men’s division but the question is which one will prevail? Former US surf ski champion Austin Kieffer took an early lead only for German Nordin Sparmann to dislodge the American with a mark of 51:17 for the 12km distance. Austin, however, unleashed the perfect counter-punch to record a dazzling 50:01 and regain top spot. With a week-and-a-half remaining the question is; will Austin still hold the bragging rights by June 14?

Who will take out the NZ open men’s surf ski title?

A little under a minute-and-a-half separate the top five Kiwis in the open men’s division and a genuine case could be made for any of the quintet to be crowned national champion. Currently leading the way is Christchurch-based Ben Keys but look out for Sam Newlands, recent surf ski convert Toby Brooke, classy masters paddler Jimmy Feathery and Perth-based 2019 King and Queen of the Harbour I champion Andrew Mowlem. It’s still all up for grabs.

Can anyone stop Danielle McKenzie?

It says a lot about the single minded nature of Danielle McKenzie that following her frustration with her first recorded time of 59:18 time – a mark which gave her a lead in excess of two minutes – the Gold Coast-based Kiwi submitted a second time of 57:47. It is very hard now to see how Danielle can be surpassed.

Will a second woman post a sub-one-hour time?

Both the number of entries and the quality of performance in the open women’s category has been highly encouraging. Kiwis Carly Tyler and Bailee Stratton as well as Samoa’s Anne Cairns have all been knocking on the door on the sub-one-hour mark and it would be great to see at least a second woman – alongside Danielle McKenzie – smash the 60-minute barrier.

Which under-16 girl will be crowned 3km queen?

The girls U16 3km event has provided some red-hot competition as just seven seconds separate the three lead protagonists. Aussie Kate Regan (16:10) leads the way from Kiwi duo Jess Cleghorn (16:13) and Sophia Lawson (16:17) but with so little to choose between the trio don’t be surprised for the final order to change.

Can anyone catch Jimmy Feathery?

In the men’s masters (age 35-44) division, South Islander Jimmy Feathery holds a lead by more than two minutes but this might not be the end of the story as Jeremy Kuggeleijn and Max Riley are believed to be meticulously planning their race routes for another crack. Watch out for masters fireworks in one of the most competitive categories.

Maple Leaf or Silver Fern?

The action is the vets’ 45-54 age group is no less competitive with a mouthwatering battle developing between Canada and New Zealand. Dubbed “the face of Canadian surf ski racing” Greg Redman (55:53) currently tops the leaderboard. Yet Auckland-based Garth Spencer, the 2019 World Masters K2 champion, is a class act and he will be aiming to improve upon his quickest mark of 56:50.

Who will prove the top salty seadog?

The 55+ paddlers have performed with pride. The founder of the Takapuna Pirates surf ski squad and former slalom paddler Ian Mercer is currently out front with a highly respectable 58:35 clocking. However, just 20 seconds adrift is Perth-based Aussie Tim Cornish with the duo seemingly locked in a private battle for Trans-Tasman glory.

Will we see an Olympic champion enter?

The Aussie-based Kiwi duo Julie and Rob Jenkinson currently lead the K2 standings with a time of 58:56 but the Canoe Racing NZ coaching duo Tim Brabants and Craig Mustard have threatened to enter and will surely pose a strong challenge. Tim, who is currently part of the men’s coaching set up at Lake Karapiro, won the Olympic 2008 K1 1000m title for Great Britain and boasts a stellar set of credentials. The questions remains; will we see him team up with the CRNZ development coach, and, if so, what time can the dynamic duo set?

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