Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Canoeists brave the seas to honour one of their own

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Paul Roozendaal joined about 100 other canoeists to cover the 30-odd km from Maketu to Pilot Bay today. Photo/Ruth Keber
Paul Roozendaal joined about 100 other canoeists to cover the 30-odd km from Maketu to Pilot Bay today. Photo/Ruth Keber

About 100 canoes made their eighth voyage from Maketu to Pilot Bay today in memory of James Moore.

Mr Moore was killed after almost completing the journey in July 2008 after coming off his canoe in stormy weather.

Each year the James Moore Memorial Race attracts more people with 117 competing in last year's race, including four international canoeists. At the first event held there were 70 canoeists. This year there had been 96 entries with more expected today. Three international canoeists had registered for today's event too, one each from Tahiti, Australia and France.

Mr Moore was originally from Rotorua and was just setting his life up when he died.

Read more: Waka and sailing expert has key role at Waitangi

His paddling friend Paul Roozendaal said that fateful day in 2008 was perfect for canoeing down the coast.

"It was a lot of fun ... it was big and rough. It was rough, but there was a lot of cheering and smiles as we paddled down.

"[James] lost his canoe, it was at a point where it was blowing past Mount Maunganui. If we didn't paddle into the harbour entrance we would have blown past Matakana and not have been able to get back in.

"He texted me saying he needed help, but I didn't know what happened, he lost his canoe because he was swimming, he called his partner and he was going under water.

"The only thing he would have been able to do was swim into shore but in the temperatures and conditions it was, that wasn't going to happen.

"Troy and I made it in, we didn't even know anything was going wrong until we got to shore.

"They said it was the biggest storm to hit New Zealand in 10 years."

Each year those in the race carried flax flowers, he said.

"They use the flower to guide them safely back to the finish then they give it to the ocean for James."

Mr Roozendaal said the race had become the biggest event of its kind in New Zealand for ocean paddling.

"It's pretty, all in the memory of James," he said.

"The comfort of being with your friends, it's good to remember the tragic day we lost James, but it makes it much easier when you're paddling out there with friends on the course where we last saw James."

They use the same route because of the strong south-east wind it catches.

"The wind is blowing from Maketu to Mount Maunganui and our canoes are designed to surf the waves. When the wind is going that direction the waves are too and it's like a playground for us. The windier it is, the more fun it is. Whenever the wind is up we try and do it as much as we can."

The race ranged from 31km to 32km depending on how direct you paddle with the fastest canoeist doing it in 2hr 17min.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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