A crew of at least 70 Northlanders - including paddlers and supporters - has returned from the 2013 Vaka Eiva regatta in Rarotonga with a hoard of medals, and a wealth of experience.

Taking a lot from the experience were youngsters Tupu King and Kier Henry, with King learning a lot after sticking with a few big name Tahitian paddlers on his way to fourth - behind a local paddler and two Tahitians - in the singles division.

Tai Tokerau Waka Ama representative Ralph Ruka said King was one in particular who took something away from the experience.

"I think they [young Northland paddlers] would have loved it," Ruka explained. "Just being behind [named singles paddlers] and learning from them.


"One of the things Tupu said was that he stuck with them up to the turning point, but as soon as they turned in the surf they left him behind. He would have loved the experience."

While King is one to look out for in the future, Ruka said a few surprise highlights from the Northland bunch would have been the Aotearoa Natives dual gold in the 500m sprint and the 36km around Raro race in the master's division.

He added that the women's team from Mitamitaga also did well in winning two golds for master women's 12km and 500m sprint, also coming fourth in the around Raro relay.

"Definitely we were up there with some of the other big gun teams over there (like Hawaii, and local Cook Island teams).

"Seeing some named Tahitians single paddlers who we don't usually get to see [was a good experience]. Overall we did awesome as a region and as our individual clubs we did too."

Ruka noted that as a region Northland probably has an advantage as our coastline serves up similar conditions to what Rarotonga did during the regatta. In the around Raro race [the conditions] got pretty big.

"I know a lot of the other teams are either harbour-based or lake-based, [so] we do have a bit of an advantage but a lot of teams come up here and train in our conditions."