2014 Poor Knights Crossing - NZ Surfski Race With a Difference

Saturday, 14 June 2014 10:16 | Written by 
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The Poor Knights Islands: 'Tapu' or Sacred to the local peoples, and the start of New Zealand's newest blue water downwind race! The Poor Knights Islands: 'Tapu' or Sacred to the local peoples, and the start of New Zealand's newest blue water downwind race!

Poor Knights Island - the site of the infamous 1820 Maori massacre, where the Hikitu people attacked, killed or enslaved all but 10 of the local Ngatiwhai hapu island inhabitants, in retribution for refusing them permission to land their wakas, or canoes, 12 years earlier after paddling 320 km's around the top of New Zealand's North Island, to purchase some pigs. According to local missionary, King, the Hikitu warriors, taking advantage of the fact that most of the island's men were away fighting down south, ”fed like vultures on the dead and returned home laden with slaves and the flesh of men”. Sound like an auspicious start line for one hell of an inaugural surfski-race? You betchya!

True Bluewater Downwind Race?

Colourful local paddler Tim Eves, ex-New Zealand Herald sports journa, has been talking this one up for some time, but it appears he has really lined this race up well: Designed to run a week before the local and international paddlers head over to Tahiti for the Mara'amu World Series Surfski Event, this race is one of the banner events of the Tutukaka Winter Festival, a three week celebration hosted at the coastal settlement.  The race happens to be on the same day as the Tutukaka Boutique Beer Festival as part of the celebrations with racers getting free entry to the beer festival on the same day. 

Rikoriko Cave

(Above) The Rikoriko Cave, largest sea-cave in the Southern Hemisphere, and the start-line for 'The Rikoriko Downwinder' course if the hoped-for NE blows!

The Kiwi paddler's growing appetite for open ocean downwind racing in New Zealand waters has another tasty addition to the calendar with the advent of this race: a true blue water event; The Poor Knights Crossing 30km race to be staged off the coast to New Zealand's wild Northland coast on August 30th, 2014. Sponsored by Strongarm, Power in the Water and Moana Nui, the event is starting at the Poor Knights marine reserve 24km off the east coast and finishing inside the Tutukaka Harbour, has already piqued the interest of many of the best open ocean paddlers in the country.
The first race specifically designed for all three of the major paddling disciplines, surf ski, waka ama and stand up paddling (SUP), has many intriguing features including a start line inside the Rikoriko sea cave, a course that includes  quick navigation through a natural rock archway and an all out dash for the mainland across 24km of open ocean back to the mainland. 


(Above) The famous Tutukaka Harbour, and finish line for most of the courses. Every-time I have paddled into this inlet I have been lucky enough to see some large, finned sea life keeping guard. The wildness and beauty of these waters is phenominal!

Race Details

Race director Tim Eves, a keen surf ski paddler and multisporter, had long believed a race from the Poor Knights Islands to Tutukaka Harbour could be a successful evet. The chance to paddle inside a world renowned marine reserve and the challenge of a downwind dash across what can be a very moody piece of water were two classic ingredients.
"It is a very special place at the Poor Knights Islands, significant these days for the fact that it is a 'no take' reserve with an amazing marine ecosystem, but notable also for its history with the tangata whenua." Tim said.

"It has a brutal history of occupation but now holds special status with everyone in Northland and beyond, now that it has marine reserve status. Paddling there is a privilege for a start, then comes the challenge of making it safely back to Tutukaka."

Paddlers will be ferried out to the startline by Dive! Tutukaka and escorted home by the seven boats in the Dive! Tutukaka fleet.
All paddlers will be vetted before entry is accepted, with evidence of open ocean paddling a requirement for registration.  Paddlers can submit their names for registration by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The event has four different course options to ensure a majority of downwind racing , but all efforts will be made to stage the race over the preferred Poor Knights to Tutukaka course.

Event details can be found on the Pacific Ocean Paddlers website, or check out the events calendar at the NZ official Waka-Ama website.


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