Patience a virtue for Heads to Harbour

Good things come to those who wait….and that is certainly true of the Manuka Performance Heads to Harbour Paddle Festival, which doubles as the New Zealand Surfski Championships, in Whakatane over the Easter weekend.

Last year the exciting new event on the surfski calendar was cancelled because of the global pandemic but the 2021 edition to be staged on April 3 will be an occasion to be savoured, according to event organiser Fiona Cleghorn.

“We were gutted to have to cancel last year’s race because we were so looking forward to hosting and showcasing our beautiful part of New Zealand,” explains Fiona. “It was a real shame to have to call off the 2020 event but a real positive has been we have had more time to make this year’s event even better.”

The race was dreamed up by Eastern Bay Canoe Racing Club coach Gary Waller who viewed this stretch of the ocean as providing a prime surfski environment.

To test Gary’s theory in the winter of 2019 his son, Tim, a rising canoe sprint paddler, former World Surfski bronze medallist Teneale Hatton and Canoe Racing NZ CE Tom Ashley paddled the proposed 23km route from the Whakatane Yacht Club to Ohope Yacht Club.

The trio were all hugely impressed by the proposed race route and Fiona too believes the race is not one to be missed.

“The paddlers will come out the river mouth and into the harbour, which is absolutely stunning,” she adds. ‘If the wind is right on the day, the race route will be spectacular,” she insists.

The preferred race option is to run the event from Whakatane Yacht Club to Ohope Yacht club, although depending on weather conditions this can be switched. 

A second alternative course option can run around Whale Island/Moutohara with a third possible route around Ohakana Island.

Fiona, who is an experienced event management organiser, says the timing of the event on an Easter Saturday was selected for several reasons. Firstly, it was a free weekend on a packed paddling calendar and, secondly, its position three weeks out from waka ama long distance nationals would help attract more waka paddlers.

However, the selection of an Easter date for the race has another bonus as it allows race entrants and their families to take a longer break in the stunning Eastern Bay region.

“There are so many cool things to do from the Nga Tapuwae O Toi Trail to visiting one of our many beautiful restaurants,” she says. “The fact the race is staged on a long weekend gives people the chance to really make the most of seeing more of the region and enjoy the cool beachside atmosphere.”

The 2021 Heads to Harbour Paddle Festival not only will have the carrot of hosting the New Zealand Surfski Championships but it will also be the concluding round of the 2020-21 Darcy Price Series. 

For more info and entry details visit here