Some of the finest watermen and women in the world will battle for the titles of King and Queen of the Harbour in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf this weekend. And a storming north-easterly is conveniently brewing to up the action factor in the first event of the world surf ski series.
New Zealand has become a formidable player on the global surf ski scene, particularly in the women's division, and two Kiwi golden girls are the favourites in this weekend's racing.
Current surf ski world champion Teneale Hatton and bronze medallist Rachel Clarke will go head-to-head in pursuit of the Harbour Queen crown.
The men's field is equally pitched as surf ski world champion Cory Hill, silver medallist Michael Booth and world title holder Dean Gardiner - all hailing from Australia - vie for the title of King.
Race director Garth Spencer says: "The event is unique in that it sees a large field of surf ski paddlers from different disciplines putting it on the line alongside world-class waka-ama and SUP paddlers. Lining up alongside we have Piha's Annabel Anderson, reigning SUP world champ, and young Koha-Alofa Vitolio, who is a world champ waka-ama paddler. The event promises to be a veritable who's who of the paddling world."
A quarter of the 200 participants taking to the water are international paddlers and Spencer expects the event to attract global scrutiny.
"We have our younger boys and girls getting ready for the Rio Olympics, a large international World Series contingent and it is the New Zealand National Ocean Racing Championships, so all eyes are on us as we get ready for the World Masters Games next year."
Regulations require four course options are available to be run on either of two days to ensure the best possible conditions: it is likely most racing action will take place on Sunday.
As the weather forecast began to shape up, Spencer - a local and avid paddler - could barely contain his excitement.
"Having lived on Waiheke for 15 years, I just want to share the joy that is paddling into Auckland in a stomping northeasterly. The 'Waihetian Windrunner' is a favourite course for locals in the right conditions."
Auckland King and Queen of the Harbour
What: 26km downwind paddle: surf-ski, stand-up paddleboard and waka-ama.
When: April 9-10
Where: Hauraki Gulf, Auckland
For more information: www.pacificoceanpaddlers.com