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More than 350 overseas paddlers set to descend on Rarotonga for the Vaka Eiva

Saturday 16 September 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Paddling, Sports


More than 350 overseas paddlers set to descend on Rarotonga for the Vaka Eiva
Powering through on the ocean in Vaka Eiva 2018. HARVEY ELLISON/18112566

The Cook Islands premier oe vaka paddling event, the internationally renowned Matson Vaka Eiva, is attracting great interest from overseas paddlers.

This year’s event will be held between November 24 and December 1, the first since 2019.

More than 350 overseas paddlers have registered in the 2023 Vaka Eiva with 40 teams flying in from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Hawaii and the United States.  

Roly Rolleston, vice president of the Cook Islands Canoeing Association said “we’re super excited to be hosting the world famous Vaka Eiva after four years off, and the interest has been overwhelming.”

Vaka Eiva is known as a fun filled week long paddling festival, with iron races, singles races, and the iconic Round Raro change-over race. 

Avarua Harbour will once again be paddling central where oe vaka supporters can catch the final leg and sprint finishes of the ocean races from the legendary Trader Jacks bar and restaurant.

“The interest from overseas teams for this year confirms that Vaka Eiva has cemented its reputation as a fun filled paddling festival, and we look forward to welcoming paddlers back to our shores,” said Rolleston.

Local clubs have been training in earnest and competing in the national v6 ocean races held fortnightly. 

The local paddling scene has seen a large jump in numbers over the last 2-3 years with good junior development within the clubs seeing an increase in junior numbers, and also welcoming new paddlers into the fold. 

The Junior U16 and U19 crews from NZ’s Te Wharekura o Mauao will compete against local crews in the v6 12k iron race, and the clubs will also be running a junior lagoon fun racing day during Vaka Eiva week.

When the event was first held in 2004, just over 200 paddlers took part. 

Vaka Eiva at its peak drew almost 1000 paddlers to Rarotonga for the 10th anniversary in 2013. 

Matson has signed up as the platinum sponsor for two years, signalling its ongoing support for the sporting oe vaka event, one of the largest in the Cook Islands, and which has cultural significance.

Also in support of the paddling festival are other sponsors including Trader Jacks, The Islander Hotel, Maritime Cook Islands and Onu Sportswear.