The coveted trophy for category winners of the NZ Paddler Series is a paddle honouring the ‘Spirit of Kupe’, carved by Wellington artist Nathan Rei. According to Maori legend, tribal warrior Kupe and his wife, Kuramarotini, were the first to discover Aotearoa after it had been created by Maui. In addition to the long, treacherous journey from Hawaiiki they had to battle a shark and an octopus before landing on the shores of the long white cloud. While us paddlers haven’t had to fend off any ocean-dwelling creatures, the trophy is a tribute to the adventurous spirit we embody by launching on the water.
The NZ Paddler Series is an initiative to bring together results from multisport, K1, and surfski races throughout the country to create a leaderboard of New Zealand paddlers from all disciplines. The 2017/2018 season is the first year it has been up and running. I only found out about it in January when the latest rankings were published and, to my astonishment, my name was at the top of the female leaderboard. I had somehow performed adequately enough in a number of paddling events to have the highest combined points. From that point there were only 2 races to go to finish off the series, with both of these being surfski events - the King and Queen of the Bay in Nelson, and the King and Queen of the Harbour in Auckland. The Nelson race was the weekend after the Coast to Coast (which I quickly deemed too soon!), but providing I didn’t suffer long-term trauma from my Longest Day outing I thought the Auckland race would be worth a shot.
Surfski is something I’ve been dabbling in over the last couple of months - a change from river paddling and a chance to learn some new skills. BUT, only in tame conditions! So you can only imagine my uneasiness when the King and Queen of the Harbour started off with 4 km of tricky cross-chop to negotiate and mixed conditions under the harbour bridge on the 23km paddle from Hobsonville to Takapuna. I know that on a river if you swim you will likely pop out on a bank somewhere, but given I had yet to master a surfski re-mounting technique I had visions of a swim in the harbour resulting in an encounter with a ferry or a trip out to the Pacific Ocean. All that aside, I still had a lot of fun and it was a great way to get a taste of what surfski paddling is really all about - I’m definitely hooked!
I started paddling a couple of years ago and it has forced me into new comfort zones, allowed me to see parts of the country from a unique perspective, and I’ve met so many great people from all walks of life along the way. Thanks to everyone who has shared knowledge from their experience, and helped with gear advice, shuttles, and cheerleading. And a massive thank you to Flow Kayaks for their ongoing support to chase paddling adventures!
The NZ Paddler Series for the next season kicks off again soon with the Southern Lakes Multisport Club winter races. Jump onto www.paddlerseries.nz and check out the event calendar for racing in your area.