Calm seas early in the day greeted junior under 19 paddlers for their 10km singles race and the youth paddlers revelled in the opportunity to showcase their skills in a competitive environment.
Taking out top honours were Otea Tommy in the boys’ division and Ioana Puna in the girls’ race.
However it was a different story for the open and masters women’s and men’s races.
By mid-morning the wind had picked up, with strong currents making for challenging conditions that saw four of the women paddlers unable to finish the 14km race.
Leading the pack on the water, Serena Hunter was in a class of her own as she carved up the course in 1.40.02.
One of the island’s elite female athletes, she is a strong contender for the Pacific Games oe vaka podium, with one more challenge before the games in Papua New Guinea next month.
Serena has been putting in the hours on and off the water to prepare for the challenging Pa’a Kaiwi channel solo OC1 world championships – a 55km ocean race between the islands of Molokai and Oahu.
The race is considered to be the pinnacle of OC1 ocean racing and for the winner of the women’s Te Aito Cook Islands title, Serena has always seen the epic race as the ‘holy grail’ of paddling.
Following in second place was Pacific Games squad member and coach Vaea Melvin in a time of 2:01.07 – an awesome result as Vaea has been recovering from two weeks of the dreaded Chikungunya virus.
Third place went to Emilene Taulu in a time of 2.05.01.
The overall winner of the men’s 24 km open race was Tahitian Raunui Makiroto in a time of 2.28.12 followed in second place by Andre Tutaka-George in a time of 2.32.18.
Andre and Raunui battled it out all the way with Andre in front several times and the two men passing the 14km mark together, but in the end the experience and talent of the Tahitian paddler shone through.
Raunui picked up the winning $800 cash prize, which will help pay for his airfare to attend the event – a bonus for organisers of the singles race.
Third in the open men’s division was Tupuna Amo in a time of 2.34.33.
In the master men’s 24km division Esben Torget first in 2.38.17, Johnny Raita 2.39.53 and Allen Sutherland 3rd in 2.49.28. The winning return air tickets for our first-placed local paddlers to compete in the Te Aito Tahiti event on July 25 were won by Serena Hunter for the women’s 14km in a time of 1.40.02 and Andre Tutaka-George for the men’s 24km in a time of 2.32.18. The tickets were generously sponsored by Air Tahiti. For full racing results check out www.facebook.com/teaitocookislands where you can also find more images by the Salt Film crew.