Whangarei's Marcus Hansen is prepared for a tough battle at the New Zealand Stand Up Paddleboarding Nationals at Orewa Beach this weekend.
The Northlander was the first Kiwi home in the 2017 edition, claiming the mantle of NZ SUP champion. He finished second overall at the same venue as this year's competition.
Hansen said he's prepared well and looking forward to the challenge.
"My preparation has been pretty good. I've been doing a lot races throughout the summer in Auckland. I've been living in Auckland for the summer which has made it a bit easier," he said.
"I went to Australia a couple of weeks ago and competed in a big race there so I'm feeling pretty confident.
"I definitely want to be the first one across the line. It's not going to be easy though with Lincoln Dew coming from Australia who's one of the top paddlers in the world.
"It's a strong field in general but hopefully I can come out with the win."
The defending national champion is competing in both the Hoe Tawhiti 16-20km Adult race and the Hoe Toa 4km Surf Race over the two days at Orewa Beach.
Hansen said the conditions can vary but it is a great place to race.
"It's normally quite flat and the waves are fairly mellow which makes for some fun racing," he said.
"In saying that, you can get a strong on-shore breeze and that can bring the white caps which makes things really tough to race in.
"The chop is never fun but it'll be interesting to see what conditions we get."
Hansen has taken his talents abroad to race over on the European Tour where he has had both success and struggles.
He took out events in Finland and England, finished second at the Canary Islands and finished inside the top 10 at the SUP World Cup in Scharbeutz, Germany.
Hansen said he enjoyed his experiences on the tour and hopes to improve his performances when he goes back at the end of April.
"It was quite the challenge. It was really tough but I learnt quite a lot over there," he said.
"I've settled a bit on the tour and managed to get some pretty good results. I'm going to have another crack at the Tour again this year and hopefully do a bit better and move up the rankings.
"I've been to some cool places with paddleboarding. The World Championships in Fiji in 2016 were pretty special. It was off a reef which made some pretty amazing views.
"San Sebastián in Spain was cool. Going through the canals and the towns and cities was really awesome."
The national event runs from March 22-24.