The inclusion Kevin Ceran-Jerusalamy and Manutea Million, two of the best Tahitian waka ama paddlers currently ranked in the world top 5, along with the return of New Zealand’s five times national champion Tupuria King has added an edge to the fifth annual Zest Brokers Poor Knights Crossing race.
The event, dubbed Aotearoa’s toughest open ocean paddling event, will be staged at Tutukaka on Saturday September 1 and has attracted an impressive collection of the best ocean paddlers in the southern hemisphere.
King and the two Tahitian guests, Million and Jerusalamy, will be paddling rudder-less waka ama (V1) craft and are expected to be among the front runners of the entire field including the list of ocean ski paddlers entered.
Race director Tim Eves said it will be the first time V1 craft will be seen in the event, and a magnificent opportunity to see some of the best open ocean practitioners in the flesh.
“These guys are top drawer ocean athletes and a privilege to have included in the race. The locals are already talking up their chances, I think they’re joking but you never really know. I’d say it might be their best opportunity to beat a Tahitian in open water because there’s a fair chance it’ll be a dam sight colder here than it is in Tahiti right now,” Eves said.
“But if the conditions are even remotely decent for V1 paddling then there might be some disappointed Kiwi boys hitting the finish line, because the Tahitians will be showered, changed and ready to party by the time most of the others finish,” he said.
Usually ocean ski craft are quicker in most conditions, but such is the skill and speed of the Tahitians, and Kaitaia’s King, that the race for line honours could be a tight tussle.
Favoured among the ocean ski paddling fraternity is Australian Todd Boreland and Kiwis Tim McLaren, Simon Longdill and Jono Reschef. Leading the New Zealanders on waka ama are Whangarei’s Aotearoa representative Stephen Roulston and fellow national paddler Mark Malaki Williams.
The event is also open to stand up paddlers (SUP) with former New Zealand Commonwealth Games high jumper Angie McKee listed as a starter.
Competitors will paddle a 30km course from the Poor Knights Islands back to the mainland finish line inside Tutukaka Harbour. However, if the winds and sea state dictate the race may be reversed to start on the mainland and finish at the marine reserve at the Poor Knights Islands. Competitors usually paddle downwind.
The entire field is ferried out to the startline, or back from the finish line, by a fleet of support boats spearheaded by craft supplied by Dive! Tutukaka.