This November the new Vector Wero whitewater park in south Auckland hosted the world’s richest kayaking event yet, the Whitewater XL. With $60,000 prize money up for grabs, it promised to be interesting racing over four action pack days. Lots of international and local paddlers came down with wallets empty and hopes high!
The Whitewater XL has been timed to coincide with the start of the Northern Hemisphere winter, and New Zealand’s finest spring weather. The race format featured a range of different canoe slalom-, boater X- and raft races as well as lots of side action.
The event kicked off on Thursday with a head to head kind style race, which is a new format seen in slalom. Six downstream and two upstream gates where set to give it a more sprint style race. A qualification run brutally cut the field and only the top eight paddlers were giving another shot to earn themselves 1k prize money. The top eight were then cut to four and the top four were cut to two for a last round where the final winner was crowned! In the ladies this was Lizzy Neave from the UK, in the men’s it was Vit Prindis from the Czech Republic. After the race it was time to have some drinks, relax and rest for another action pack day the following day.
Day two and three where two normal slalom race formats. Both days consisted of one qualification run to cut the field in the top ten and one final run. Both where the same races but the way the overall point where set up meant that the Saturday race was the important one to win. Winning the Saturday race gave you a massive advantage in winning the overall and the 5k prize grab and 3k for the win on Saturday. No doubt that Saturday was the day to crush! In the end it was Nouria Newman (FRA) and Ondrej Tunka (CZE), Rosalyn Lawrence (AUS) and Franz Anton (GER) walking away with a smile and 8K richer!
The final day, day four, ended with a bang! The Waka kayak boater X. A time-trial earlier in the week on the Kaituna River was the qualifier for this race and brought lots of people down from Okere Falls to paddle on the Vecto Wero course for their very first time! The racing field was very very stacked. Round after round it got harder and harder to stay out on top. In the end it was Luuka Jones and Stefan Hengst who won the battle and the last race of the epic Whitewater XL!