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He wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Wednesday 17 November 2010 | Published in Regional

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For career photographer and veteran outrigger paddler Harvie Allison, Vaka Eiva is a chance to fuse two passions.

Armed with some heavy camera artillery, Allison arrived on Rarotonga last week to catch up with old friends, visit his wife Shanta’s Cook Islands (Henderson) family and get ready to shoot one of the island’s biggest sporting events of the year.

He’s used to photographing major athletic events – earlier this month, he endured five hours in pitchy four-metre surf in a tiny rubber dingy, shooting the Coolangatta Gold Ironman – but for Allison, Vaka Eiva is special.

He and his brother-in-law Louis Enoka were instrumental in founding Vaka Eiva six years ago; Allison was here in its inaugural year and every year since.

“It’s the spectacular water, and scenery and everything – everything about it makes it the most exciting outrigger event on the planet,” Allison said.

And by planet, he clarifies, he means “Planet Outrigger” – “us outrigger folk live on our own planet”, he said with a laugh.

Allison has been paddling for 17 years and now coaches for Tweed Coast Outriggers. He can sit at any position, but when he’s not coaching he’s usually steering.

He’s no stranger to the sea – he was an elite surf ski paddler for 20 years and a surf lifesaver for 37 years. Allison did a 16km race during one Vaka Eiva but otherwise spends the week on the media boat, snapping shots of the sea and the sport, with Shanta providing back-up.

This year, he’ll be aboard Brent Fisher’s official safety boat every day, from early in the morning until the last race finishes. He’ll be supplying CI News and Cook Islands Tourism – for which he is the official photographer – with Vaka Eiva images. During the week, he’ll be posting reports and photos online daily.

Allison is also the unofficial, self-appointed caretaker of Australian paddlers coming to Rarotonga for Vaka Eiva – he can give them the inside scoop because he knows the island, as he and his wife come back about three times a year.

“I wouldn’t miss it (Vaka Eiva) for the world,” he says.