Mowlem paddles to river race hat trick
There were tightly fought battles at the end of the annual Waikato River paddle race.
Aucklander Andrew Mowlem made it three wins in a row when he was first across the Cambridge to Hamilton Paddle Race finish line after a 23km paddle.
He made it to the Waikato Sports Fishing Club in 1 hour, 26 minutes yesterday – less than a second in front of the next surfski competitor across the line.
Later, a trio of stand-up paddleboarders arrived, each scrambling to be first of the group to finish.
The paddle race has previously attracted name competitors, including Olympians Ben Fouhy and Mahe Drysdale.
This year, competitors in the 23km race lined up at Cambridge’s Riverside Reserve yesterday morning, with craft including waka, stand-up paddleboards and various classes of kayaks.
Others started the shorter 11km race at Narrows Landing.
Mowlem – who has done the race about four times – said he keeps coming back because there are more competitors than in almost any other race.
‘‘I’m not always paddling that much in the river. I enjoy that. It’s cool having all the stand-ups and the multisport kayaks, canoes and things as well. It’s a bit different … You see people the whole time,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s usually a bit of a headwind – just, I think, because you’re running down the river – but it was probably better [conditions] than I had done before, just because I’ve done it a couple of times before when it’s been hailing and raining on the way. It was good today.’’
This year his time was slightly faster and he thinks the river was flowing faster, too.
It was also much higher – the little beach near the finish line was almost submerged.
That high level created more swirling water around obstacles such as trees, Mowlem said, which meant competitors had to keep their distance.
‘‘It’s a hard race. Because it’s so flat, it definitely throws you out,’’ said Mowlem, who usually paddles in the [Auckland] harbour.
Stand-up paddleboarders were among those racing down the Waikato River yesterday.