20-Jun-2018 10:13 a.m.

Aussie giants duel for King's crown...

Known as the "Molokai of NZ Ocean Racing", the exciting 20km downwind King of the Harbour Ocean Ski and SUP race sees an incredible elite field of NZ and Australian stand up paddlers uniting to navigate fickle winds and difficult currents on the busy Waitemata Harbour in battle for the esteemed crown, currently held by "Queen" Annabel Anderson, Marcus Hansen (12'6 Mens) and Jeremy Stephenson (14'0).

World SUP Champion Travis Grant is coming from Australia, as well as NSW Champ Jake Jensen and Aussie Champ Beau O'Brian.  Travis and Starboard rider Beau O'Brian are having an intense season of duelling that sees them finishing within 30 seconds of each other every time.  It is anyone's guess who will take the lead in this battle on foreign waters.

Both Travis and NZ Elite paddler Jeremy Stephenson are making strong comebacks from injury that saw them both out of action for most of the Southern Hemisphere season.  Jeremy broke his arm after the Molokai2Oahu World Paddleboard Champs last July, after winning his age division in the Open Mens.  Travis also had a broken arm last year, and returned to the water late this season with some impressive performances, winning the ISA World Champs in February.

This is the first time they have come up against one another in a race since Battle of the Paddle 2011, when Travis Grant took the gold medal ahead of Jamie Mitchell and Connor Baxter. 

Jeremy narrowly beat Jake Jensen on the line in the 15km NZ SUP CHAMPS race in February, although he was on a 14'0 and Jake was on a 12'6.  Armie has had a strong run in recent distance events, coming second to JP Tobin in the 15km Whangaparaoa to Mairangi Bay race after winning the 10km Shoe Island Challenge two weeks ago.

Also strong contenders from New Zealand are Olympic RSX Sailor JP Tobin and King of the Waves Armie Armstrong.  JP has missed most of the big NZ SUP races this season due to his sailing schedule, so there is an exciting "unknown" factor as we see him coming up against some strong competition in his local training grounds.

Olympic Gold Medallist Jo Aleh and World Series SUP Champion Annabel Anderson will be contesting the Womens title.  This is one of the only races worldwide where the Mens and Womens Trophy and title are equal and prize money is equal.  Annabel beat the entire King of the Harbour fleet last year on a 12'6, with only Jeremy Stephenson ahead of her on a longer 14'0 board.  This year Annabel will be on a 12'6 but most of the male competitors will be on 14'0 boards, so we're not likely to see the same "beat all the boys" showdown, but it will be impressive none the less.

The course is set for a 12pm start at Matiatia, Waiheke, and finish at Birkenhead Wharf.  Paddlers will check in from 9am at Birkenhead Wharf and load boards onto a ferry that will take them to Waiheke for the start.  Spectators can also go on the ferry for front row viewing of the race as it unfolds.

Prizegiving will be held at Takapuna Boating Club from 6pm.

All Stand Up Paddlers competing will be issued with a high vis race shirt by race sponsor Starboard at check-in.




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