The splash of 100 oars signalled the start of annual kayak race on the Manawatū river loop lagoon behind Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom in Foxton at the weekend.

Top-billing was Toby Brooke, who is bound for the World Ocean surf ski championship in Quiberon, France, from the strong Whanganui Paddlers club.

Brooke, 21, was an imposing figure on the water. At nearly 2m tall, he powered through the water and was too strong for the rest of the field over the 12km course and was home in less than an hour.

It was a good day out for Brooke's Whanganui club as it dominated the podium in the K1 and surf ski categories.


The event was sponsored by Welly Paddlers and consisted of three races - two that were of shorter distance of 3km and 6km - and a longer race over 12km.

The start line was behind Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom in the centre of Foxton on a lagoon, and travelled down to where it met the Manawatū river. Competitors then took a left and paddled back up the river to Whirokino, and then headed back to the start.

Laurelle Winiata
Laurelle Winiata

Sharlene Winiata, one of the event organisers, said there plans for it to grow bigger next year.

"The event is held annually and attracts a lot of interest from around the region. There are prizes for the three place getters in each of the races and food and beverages for the participants afterwards to enjoy."

It attracted paddlers from as far north as Waitara and Napier, while many came from Wellington and Whanganui.

Fellow organiser Chester Burt a key factor to the popularity of the event was that it brought a range of similar sports together on the one stretch of water.

The multicraft structure of the event meant large numbers from the big sports like waka ama and surf lifesaving, it was the multisport disciplines that provided the most numbers.

It brought together all ages as the youngest paddler was 10, while the oldest was 68.


"It goes to show it's an activity for all in both the recreational and competitive environment," he said.

Burt and Winiata were pleased with the turn out and where hoping more planning and changes would see an even more paddlers entered next year.

"At the end of the day more people always creates the need for everything to improve, from the way we organise the event, to the issues that affect the locals on this waterway. This event is for the paddling community, just as much as the local community," he said.

Meanwhile, Liam Lace finished second behind Brooke in 1:00:20, with Jack Clifton and Cameron Russell - both 17 years old - not far behind in 1:00:55.

The first female paddle home was Samoan sprint kayak Olympian Ann Cairns who also paddled a surf ski with her winning time 1:07:40.

Whanganui's Sophie Brooke was second in 1:12:33 closely followed by her clubmate Erica Tanner two seconds behind in 1:12:33.

There was a large contingent of Waka Ama paddlers at the event
There was a large contingent of Waka Ama paddlers at the event

Waka Ama, one of New Zealand's more popular paddle sports, was on show with three juniors from the Toa Waka Ama club in Porirua pushing their coach Thomas Tawhiri hard.

Nataniel Cashell won that event in 1:18:12, with Tawhiri second in 1:24:02, and Mikaere Miratana-Stafford third in 1:43:19.

Meanwhile, the Masters Paddlers were always competitive across all divisions, none more so than Kathmandu Coast to Coast competitor Vicki Vertongen.

Now representing Wellington's Kupe Canoe Club, she placed first in her event in a time of 1:14:24, with Whanganui's Robyn Scott no far behind in 1:17:57, with Kim Skerman from Bulls third in 1:17:59.

On the 6km course, Ben Warren from Mana Kayak Racing Club was first home in 35:01, with Otaki Waka Hoe paddlers Te Rangihua Henare 41:03 and Pounamu MacKay both in W1 (waka ama) in second and third respectively.

The 3km course had Haley Cudby in a time of 28:33s ahead of a large field on a surf lifesaving kneeboard, while next in was Cameron Wills who was happy paddling his canoe polo kayak, in 30:04.

Race results: 3 Km race first female, Haley Cudby, time 28.33.90, first male Cameron Mullins, time 30.04.40.
6km race. First male- Ben Warren, time 35.01.00, first female, Te Rangihua Henare, time 41.03.30.
12km race First male Toby Brooke. Time 57.05.60. First female, Ann Cairns.
Time 1hr- 07.40.00.
Full results are at