Organisers are hoping the weather gods play ball with a world-class field of paddlers lining up to tackle the challenging stretch of open ocean between the Poor Knights Islands and Tutukaka Coast this weekend.
The Poor Knights Crossing is set to start inside the Rikoriko sea cave, and includes a quick navigation through a natural rock archway before an all-out dash for the mainland across 28km of open ocean before finishing in Tutukaka Harbour.
Event organiser Tim Eves had to make the agonising decision last year to abandon the original course after a weather bomb delivered 6m-high surf and more than 40-knot winds which posed safety concerns.
Paddlers had to satisfy themselves with paddling a shortened course off Wellingtons Bay (Whangaumu Bay) in water equally as challenging .
He hopes Saturday's sea conditions will deliver an epic downwind race.
"I look at the weather map once a day and leave it. There's nothing you can do... hopefully the weather gods play the game," Eves said. "The weather can change in a moment. I learnt that last year."
This week the wind has dialled from every direction.
"We've got course options, four of which take in the Poor Knights either coming home or heading out there and the last is either in Ngunguru Estuary of Tutukaka Harbour or a combination."
Some of the world's top surf ski paddlers are using the event as a shake-down for the world champs in Tahiti in three weeks. Six Australian paddlers will head the field of 26 ski racers.
Australian Dean Gardiner, who has won the world title in Molokai, Hawaii several times will be joined by world No1 Michael Booth, who will start as favourite. The fastest Kiwi ski paddler, Andrew Mowlem, will also be in the mix.
In the women's division, Auckland policewoman Rachel Clarke, who is leading the 2015 World Series, will no doubt be in the leading pack.
Taipa's Tupu King will start favourite in the highly competitive field of 27 waka ama paddlers. He is fresh from finishing in the top 10 at the Tahitian Aito event, one of the biggest V1 races in the world, where he was scouted by one of the world's best waka teams, Paddling Connection, to race at the Katalina Race in Los Angeles. He is the current New Zealand sprint and long-distance champion.
While there are only two stand-up paddle boarders taking on the mammoth challenge, they include Vicki Woolley, who has finished second in the Molokai crossing. A fleet of boats provided by Dive! Tutukaka have been adapted to ferry paddlers and their craft to the start line.
Eves said the event had the backing of the community and there was a sense of local ownership with the prizes reflecting that, including the Poor Knights lily (raupo taranga, xeronema - a plant unique to the islands) and work by local artist Steve Moase. The race briefing is not just for the paddlers, but any one who is interested and it is a chance to meet some of the best paddlers in the world. There will also be guest speakers talking about the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve at the Oceans Resort Hotel, 7.30pm tomorrow.