About 520 local and overseas paddlers are set to compete in the week-long annual paddling feast, which starts with the main races this morning.
Following the vaka blessing yesterday, participants took part in the Trader Jack’s Boiler Swim competition followed by the Western Union ‘Deposit Cashback’ prize presentation.
In the opening OC1 and V1 Iron Challenges 12 kilometre race today, men’s teams will be battling for the top honours at 8am followed by the women’s competition, starting at 10am. Two more races will be held at 12 noon and 1.30pm followed by the prize presentation.
The official opening ceremony and dinner, including cultural performance will be held later in the afternoon.
Apart from the local competitors, this year’s competition will feature paddlers from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Fiji, Canada, Samoa and Hawaii.
Anuenue Paddling Club from Hawaii is one of the regulars at Vaka Eiva and is hoping for another fun-filled event this year.
Club member Sam Rodrigues said the Cook Islands was a special place for the team.
“This is like coming home for us. This is our second home. People here are so nice and the warmth that we have been receiving is amazing,” Rodrigues said.
“We can go other places but we prefer to come here first. This is the one we look forward to because everyone here is like a family.”
Rodrigues said the competition was always tough and they preferred themselves as the underdogs against some of the top guns in the event.
He said they would be competing in the iron races as well as the mixed round the island relay competition.