The annual police waka ama championships kicked off in Napier yesterday and the pace is set to pick up with the sprints in Ahuriri today.

A powerful powhiri by Hastings' Girls High School greeted the 99 police paddlers from across the North Island.

The Bay is hosting for the first time after Counties Manakau held last year's event.

"We've put our hand up this year," Constable Grant Marshall from the organising committee said.

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Last year teams from Hawke's Bay held two of the five major trophies.

"There are some quite buff guys so competition will be fierce."

The Bay will enter three crews, two men's one women's.

"Some of the teams have been training in secret so there is bound to be a bit of local rivalry," Mr Marshall said.

Northland, Counties Manakau, Waikato, Gisborne, Taranaki and Wellington are the other crews competing.

Yesterday saw a 22km open race where competitors paddled from the Westshore Sailing Club to Waipataki Beach and back.