Ten Reasons to enter the NZ Virtual Paddling Champs

The 2021 New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships is open for business throughout the entire month of March and times can be officially logged from Monday (March 1). So to whet the appetite for the exciting new event, we give you ten good reasons why you should get involved.

Competitive Opportunity

Any competitive opportunity is a good one, right? Especially so, in a global pandemic. Following on from last year’s highly successful New Zealand Surf Ski Championships, the 2021 New Zealand Virtual Paddling Championships contested over the 12km distance for seniors and 3km for SUP and junior paddlers represents the perfect opportunity to test yourself again and again.

Race yourself and others

With the leaderboard regularly updated at paddler.nz there will be no lack of motivation to dislodge others. It may not be head to head racing in the traditional sense, but the format can in some ways be heighten the drama. At the 2020 New Zealand Virtual Surfski Championships, for example, former World Surfski medallist Rachel Clarke (see image below) made a dramatic late entrance into the event to take victory in the women’s race in a stunning 55:16. 

International appeal

The event is not limited to New Zealanders, we welcome, indeed we would love to see, entrants from across the planet. Last year’s NZ Virtual Surfski Champs, for example, attracted 100 paddlers from 10 countries; New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Samoa and Hong Kong.

World-class competition

Expect the very best to line up and compete. Last year the 2020 Virtual Surfski Champs; attracted some of the global elite including the USA’s Austin Kieffer (see above), who took victory in the men’s event. Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Rachel Clarke, former Molokai Crossing champ, defeated her fellow Kiwi, the 2019 World Surfski Champion Danielle McKenzie.

Other paddle sports

The biggest departure from last year’s NZ Virtual Surfski Champs is the event has evolved into a more broader  ‘paddling champs.’ Open to all paddle craft; Waka, kayak and SUP as well as surf ski are all welcome to enter. We also hope crew boats will get involved. Six-strong waka boats battling it out to post the quickest 12km time could provide some of the highlights of the event.

Junior racing

Far from an exclusively senior event, youngsters can also enter over the 3km distance. At last year’s NZ Virtual Champs we enjoyed some competitive racing in the U18 category with Kate Regan and Damien Da Silva taking out the respective girls’ and boys’ events. We anticipate more of the same this time. 


At the other end of the age spectrum, the Masters, Vets and Salty Sea Dog divisions served up some memorable racing at the 2020 NZ Virtual Surfski Champs. Highlights included Kiwi Jimmy Feathery taking the masters division in a slick time of 52:30 – for seventh overall. Meanwhile, the Salty Seadog prizes were secured by the Australian-based Kiwi husband and wife duo; Rob and Julie Jenkinson. Expect the battle across the senior age-grades to be just as competitive.

Darcy Price Series 

For those entering the Surfski category, they’ll have the additional incentive of the event representing the penultimate round of 2020-21 Darcy Price Series. The men’s series has so far served up an tight tussle between defending champion Ben Keys and Toby Brooke. Meanwhile, in the women’s division, Ben’s wife, Carly, is the paddler to catch. Expect the battle for points ahead of the final round of the series at the NZ Surfski Champs in Whakatane on April 3 to be fierce.  

Vary up the course

The beauty of this event is the total versatility of the paddling environment. Take on your favourite sea route, opt to reverse the run or take on an altogether different run. All options are open. River paddling and lake paddling are very much allowed. In fact, for the 2020 NZ Virtual Surfski Champs runner-up Danielle McKenzie this was part of the challenge as she flip-flopped from sea route to river run to enable her to cover the distance in the fastest time.

Easy to enter

To enter is as easy as A, B, C. Simply stick your details into an online submission form and an image of your route tracking, proving distance and time. The paddler.nz website will go live on Monday March 1 at 9am (NZT), so stay tuned for more.

****Note, rules state that the competitors must start and finish at the same point to minimise the effect of the wind, current etc.

The competition is free to enter but please no pausing of the watch/phone during the paddle.

Participants can post as many times as they like across the month of March but only the best time will count.

Image: Of Rachel Clarke courtesy of Georgia Schofield