11-Apr-2012 08:48 p.m.

Pauanui Shoe Island Challenge

Saturday 14th April

12.30 Race Start

If you haven't paddled around this spectacular part of New Zealand before, then you've got to make it to the Coromandel this weekend!  I headed out from the golden sand surf beach of Pauanui on Easter Sunday to try out the course, in light off-shore winds that turned into an easterly sea breeze about halfway to the island.

Approaching the impressive dark cliffs on the south side the rolling ocean swell of the Pacific crashed noisily upon the rocks, making the kelp forests dance mesmerisingly beneath the deep blue water.  Before long you reach a tall precipice of rock that has split away from the south eastern most point of the island.  Occupied by a lonely seagull, the edges of the precipice are worn smooth by years of storms.

Turning the corner the cliffs on the ocean side of the island are even taller, with huge boulders crumbled at the bottom like a giant's biscuit crumbs, and the sea churning with the reverse chop of the swell and wind.

The trick on race day will be whether to go wide to avoid the lumpy waters close to the cliffs, or to charge straight through and cut the corner... feeling like I'm balancing precariously on a swiss ball for the next 10 minutes, I wonder if wide might have been the better course!

Still, without falling in, I come around the next corner to an almost completely different island.  Friendlier waters and almost accessible hillsides thick with native flaxes and Pohutukawa trees, hide a myriad of birdlife, then turn into appealing coves that invite exploration as I reluctantly turn back towards land.

The forest-clad conical peaks of the Coromandel ranges do a convincing impression of Tahiti or Hawaii when you look back toward shore, but as the rolling pastural land in the foreground comes into focus behind the dunes, there is no mistake that this is picture postcard Aotearoa.  Before I know it I'm speeding up my stroke to catch the waves in to shore.

An hour and a half later and I'm smiling all the way in on the whitewash... inspired and rearing to go again.

To book a place at Pauanui this weekend contact Erin at Richardsons Rentals, ph (0273) 503 435.

The Starboard team will be taking transport down, with room for boards on the trailer either Friday or Saturday, and will also have a few spare bunks and tent space for Friday and Saturday night, so if you're keen to join in, let us know!  Victoria 021 644 129.


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