BenLevyPhotography 4108 Paddlers took on the stroppy Waitemata Harbour in Saturday's New Zealand Ocean-Racing Championships for the 2018 Vaikobi King and Queen of the Harbour! This was to be the Year of the Kiwis.

Heading over the Auckland harbour bridge on Saturday morning I could see the flags starting the hang east-west, and the nimbus clouds starting to gather over the Waitakere Ranges. I knew the wind was coming. And so did the thirty last minute entrants who had registered the day before. With a clash with Aussie surf nations, the Carolina Cup and a large waka-ama event up north, this year we may not have had the numbers or the traditional big names, but it mattered not: We had a race. And not just any race - The New Zealand Ocean Racing Championships, and the local boys and girls where on fire! 

“The forecast has been looking stable all week. Autumn is here, And gone are the big north-eastly weather systems we have been enjoying all season. After last years ‘Normandy Landing’ of an event, we were always going to keep the event nice and simple. The course was obvious from early in the week, and we made the call to run the Hobsonville Humdinger on Wednesday.”  Race Director Garth Spencer was not slow this year in acknowledging the large team behind the event including Vaikobi’s Pat Langley and up-and-coming event organiser/paddler Danika Mowlem, both of whom were central to the organisation of this year’s race.




Australia's Cory Hill backs up his 2016 King of the Harbour title to take Race 1 of the 2017 World Surfski Series in undoubtadly the toughest conditions in the 16 years of running the event. Auckland's Andy Mowlem was a solid second over Mark Anderson in 3rd to round out this year's podium!

If 2016 was The Year Of The Aussies, 2017 was undoubtedly The Year of Tangaroa, the Mãori god of the sea, raging battle with his brother, Tawhirimatea the god of storms.  Make no mistake, this was a tough day out, irrespective of what course you did. We had 6/12 or 27km of everything thrown at us: squalls of 20-30 knots, sheeting rain, event-equipment failure, cold, extreme tidal flows, cross chop conditions. We were thoroughly tested. The faces coming off the water and into the long walk up the beach spoke volumes. But 181 of you registered, with only a handful of non-starters, and it was very humbling to watch you all come off the water, especially for those of you first-time KQotH-Paddlers! We crowned our new King of the Harbour (Australia's Cory Hill - 2:08) and Queen of the Harbour (Auckland North Shore's Rachel Louise Clarke - 2:36) in a repeat of last year's win results, which is amazing. Men's Runners-Up included local RAYC paddler Andy Mowlem in 2:10 in 2nd place and Aussie Mark Anderson in 2:11 to take out the top three. In the ladies race there wasn't much between the challengers, with Teneale Hatton (2:42) and Dene Simpson (2:46) rounding out the podium. The Waterman Store NZ kicked off the inaugural NZ Distance Paddle Board Champs, and a swath of talented young athletes were thrown into the mix!


2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series: RACE 4

Simon Longdill takes the famous Pacific Ocean Paddlers Paua off Andrew Mowlem, as the overall 2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series surfski long course winner!

Race 4 of the Auckland Downwind Winter Series dramatically wrapped up on Sunday with an epic paddle from Maraetai. Along with ‘The Big Announcement’, the longest course of the series saw 50 plus waka, surfski and SUP paddlers take on ‘The Beachlands Blisterer’ 23km course, and another dozen race back from St Heliers in a messy Easterly weather system. Returning from Tahiti’s World Surfski Series ‘Maraamu’ classic, series front runners Simon Longdill and Tim McLaren couldn’t hold back Andrew Mowlem who is back in fighting form, while Pea Strickland smashed out a victory in the ART-IN-SURF SUP course, and waka-warrior Paora Monk finishing the series with another win. The stage is now set for the 2017 VW|Giltrap Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour, with Sundays announcement of this exciting new partnership!


2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series: RACE 3

Late registrations continue to plague Race Directors, but delight the 60 odd paddlers around Sunday's Race 3 of the 2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series.

There was magic and delight for the most hardened souls on Sunday's Race 3 of the Auckland Downwind Winter Series, with the surprise late registration of a large pod of hungry orcas across our start-line with minutes to the horn! Standing on the boat ramp in front of Royal Akarana Yacht Club we would be treated to a rare close-in sighting as these beautiful mammals scrounged up their favourite dish of fresh stingray. One ray, lucky to get away, big-eyed and brandishing the fresh lacerations of sharp orca-teeth after a close call, had almost the same look on its face as runner-up Jack Wilson, after Race 3 winner Simon Longdill slashed out a formidable lead on the first lap of the Bean Rock Back-Burner course in uncharacteristically warm and calm conditions!


2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series: RACE 2


16 Yr old Jordan McLarin leads the 60 odd paddlers around Sunday's Race 2 of the 2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series.

An uncharacteristic stunner of a day saw 60 SUP, Waka and Surfski paddlers rip open Okahu Bay as they charged around the ‘Reverse Bean-Rock-Backburner’ course on Sunday. RAYC’s Jeremy Kugelleijn was quick off the mark, with Rebecca Cole on his wash, both working their FLOW Sharpskis hard to the turn at the breakwater, as was Mark Malaki-Williams in his Ferrari-red and white waka. But the large pack quickly reverted to a natural order that would form the basis for the final positions, and it was overall series winner 16yr old Jordan McLarin that would start to cement his position on the front four.


2016 Auckland Downwind Winter Series: RACE 1

82 Surfskis Waka-Amas and SUPs tore up the tranquil winter sheen of Okahu Bay for July's Race 1 of the Auckland Downwind Winter Series.

A big contingent of Waka-Amas and Surfskis as well as a number of loyal SUP competitors charged out of Okahu Bay for the multi-lap 'Bean Rock Backburner' even for Race 1 of the Auckland Downwind Winter Series. While the conditions were cool and slow, the racing was hot and fast, with a number of surprise podium finishers. Heading straight off the start-line like and arrow from a bow was Sammy Mayhew, with a large colourful pack hot on his tail. Straight under the pier so as not to snag any of the fishing lines it would be a few boat lengths lead that eventual long course podium finishers Simon Longdill and Jordan MClarin would need to claw back. Claw back they did, and from a spectator perspective it was fascinating to see the leads change hands as the tussles developed between the top two oceanski lead groups, the lead waka group and the leading SUP's.


2016 FLOW Kayaks King & Queen of the Harbour: The Year Of The Aussies!

130 surfski, waka-ama and SUP paddlers exploded off the beach at Okahu Bay headed for the finish line at Waiheke Island, across a flat glassy Hauraki Gulf, Auckland.

 Auckland’s Okahu Bay glistens brightly - 130 colourful sleek carbon racing craft line up at the water’s edge. 10m’s back, lined up between the FLOW Kayaks flags, the anxious surfski, SUP and waka-ama paddlers jostle with nervous pre-race humour. Top seeded paddlers Cory Hill, Michael Booth and Rachel Clarke (2016 Surfski World Champ, runner-up and ladies 3rd-place-getter respectively), Tahiti’s 22 yr old SUP prodigy Niuhiti Buillard, Annabel Anderson current SUP World Champ and NZ’s Tupuria King Waka-ama legend nervously peer out over the glassy Hauraki Gulf, where two days before the weather was still forecasting big winds. Yes, the 2016 FLOW Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour is about to explode off the beach, kicking off the 2016 Surfski World Series!


2015 Auckland Downwind Winter Series: RACE 4


The start of the fourth and final Auckland Downwind Winter Series for 2015 was a blur of colour and highly charged action as the 70 odd SUP, Waka-Ama and Surfski paddlers raced across the sand to their craft.

Fitting warm spring weather greeted the 70 odd paddlers for Race 4 of the 2015 Auckland Downwind Winter Series. A mass start for all Long and Short Course paddlers from Okahu Bay created a colorful spectacle for the growing bystanders, and a daredevil motorised paraglider swooping just overhead of the startline for the multi-lap Hobson Bay Humdinger course completed the picture!