George, who finished second to Tahitian paddler Raunui Makiroto in the 2016 Te Aito Cook Islands open men’s competition on Saturday, has earned himself the Air Tahiti-sponsored return ticket to compete in the Ultimate Te Aito.
Bec Rassmussen, who finished second in the women’s race over the weekend and in the Australian Te Aito held earlier in May, will also compete in the Ultimate Te Aito in Tahiti.
Top local female paddler Serena Hunter won the women’s race but gave the winning return air ticket prize to Tahiti to Rassmussen.
Meanwhile Tahitian paddler Makiroto, after winning the fifth edition of the annual elite individual vaka racing competition, said the victory did not come easy.
“Raunui began paddling when he was 19 years of age and in his first year of competition his team Rai won the prestigious Hawaiki Nui event 140km over three days,” Cook Islands Canoeing Association events manager Chrissy Thomas said.
“Raunui’s passion for this sport brought him to the Cook Islands to compete in the Vaka Eiva in 2012 and 2014, with his team Paea Va’a winning the 18km iron in 2012 and all open men’s races in 2014.
“For Te Aito Cook islands, Raunui said he trained for three months twice a day both off water cardio and weight fitness and on-water training of up to 40km a day. This is what it takes to be on top, according to him.”
Meanwhile, another international paddler, Michel Hauata of New Caledonia, finished third in the men’s open race.
Hauata said he was keen to return home and put together a team to compete in Vaka Eiva.
“Cook Islands Canoeing Association is grateful for the participation from this high level of international competitors.
“This is what helps drive the sport to an elite level both locally and internationally.”