Key and Clarke crowned surfski royalty


It may sound like politics but in fact it’s ocean surfski racing. 65-paddlers lined up for the annual Queen and King of the Bay surfski race from Kaiteriteri Beach to Mapua on Saturday, which was also round 4 of the New Zealand Canoe Racing National Series.

The sea conditions for the 26km course produced a light northerly wind with some small waves making it a testing race without a pushing tailwind. In the Queen of the Bay contest three previous winners were entered, Lynley Coventry, Suzie Le Cren and Carly Keys but they knew they had an elevated competition with Auckland paddlers Rachel Clarke and Teneale Hatton, plus Tara Smith from Blenheim. From the start it was Clarke who set the pace and with Hatton staying close. Keys and Smith lost contact with the leading pair once on the open water. Crossing the Motueka river delta Clarke showed why she's considered my many to be the best female ocean paddler in the world and pulled away to a convincing victory in 2:02:20. Hatton clocked a fast time to earn second in 2:06:33, Smith placed third in 2:12:34.  

The veteran category was won by Nelson paddlers with Lynley Coventry first, Suzie Le Cren second and Anne Thompson in third.

The men’s race also had three previous winners racing, Andrew Mowlem, Dan Busch and Hadyn Lockie. A strong group of elite men gathered on the start line with a number of contenders from Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson. It was Canterbury paddler Ben Keys that powered down the course in style in 1:51:22, four minutes ahead of Auckland’s Andrew Mowlem. James Feathery a week earned third in 1:57:25. It was a sweet victory for Keys who narrowly missed winning the event in 2019. The veteran mens division was won by Tim Grammer, Paul Massie second both from Christchurch, Tim Eves from Northland in third.

The mixed doubles race was won by Joe and Jackie MacIntyre, Neil Taylor and Lorraine Mellors in second, Danial and Ash Bremner in third.

Sunday the paddlers had heavier seas at the South Island Surfski Championships from Cable Bay to Tahunanui Beach. The 21km downwind race had gusting strong northerlies. Launching at Cable Bay was a challenge in itself, once out of Cable Bay the wind was following and provided waves to surf down the course. It was an exciting paddle and race. Tara Smith from Blenheim made it look easy winning in 1:45:16, leading home Carly Keys of Christchurch in 1:54:56 with Kim Hendrie in third. The veteran womens race was won by Lynley Coventry with Suzie Le Cren third.  

With waves reaching two-metres the mens field saw the paddlers taking a number of different strategies along the coast, some staying in close to the boulder bank with others heading out wide hoping to pick up bigger swells and a favourable direction. This time it was the Auckland paddlers leading the mens, with Andrew Mowlem powering away and handling the conditions with ease to stop the clock in 1:25:30.

Sam Newlands also from Auckland in second at 1:28:36 and Ben Keys following up his victory on Saturday with a third place. Tim Grammar won the veteran mens leading Nelson paddlers Neil Taylor in second and Joe MacIntyre in third. The first double was Sakkie Mayer and Nigel Muir.

It was a successful two days of ocean racing with a variety of conditions.
The events were hosted by the Nelson Surfski Club and sponsored by Think, Vaikobi, KayakHQ and Chia Sisters.