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Saturday 26 November 2011 | Published in Regional


Junior paddlers have been coming to Vaka Eiva from Australias Sunshine Coast since the competition opened up to young paddlers about 2006.

Their numbers have been on the rise ever since for the most part and this year, with 43 junior paddlers coming from the Queensland area, its the largest group to have ever made the leap across to the Cook Islands for Vaka Eiva.

One man has been at the centre of the push from the beginning and is at the core of the expansion in Vaka Eivas junior ranks.

Allan Rasmussen has been acting as the Mooloolaba Outrigger Canoe Clubs figurehead, leader, guide, manager and minder of children in the Cook Islands since 2006.

At home, he fights for funding with a bevy of sports from the Australian government on behalf of paddling.

Here, he helps bring together a motley crew of Queensland kids and their parents to compete in the Cook Islands under the Mooloolaba banner.

The reason Rasmussen and the crew keeps coming back year after year is simple: the club has formed a great friendship with the Cook Islands and its people and Vaka Eiva offers paddlers of all experience levels a chance to compete.

For me, I also feel like were part of the junior movement in the Cook Islands, weve been here since the start, he said.

Many of the same participants return to the Cook Islands every year, meaning the junior paddlers from Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands have grown together and formed relationships that span many years.

Vaka Eiva organiser Victoria Dearlove said Rasmussen was a champion of the sport, especially when it came to promoting it among youth, and the visiting teens added another level to Vaka Eiva through their continued involvement.

These are really dedicated kids, and theyve been coming back for years now, Dearlove said.

Its always a bit of a battle between the local kids and the visiting kids, each year it seems like one group will get in front in one race and then another will do it in the next race.

With Rasmussens all over the world, it is possible theres a link between Allan and the Cook Islander families with the same name. Allan said hes not aware of any connection, but there is always room to daydream on such issues.

Rasmussen said next years paddling calendar was not yet set for the club and they may have to choose between at- tending the world sprint championships in Canada or Vaka Eiva.

But he said Vaka Eiva topped the championship meets in a number of ways for the level of involvement offered, the amount of fun to be had and the cultural connections available.

One thing is for sure, Vaka Eiva and the Cook Islands will always welcome Rasmussen and the Mooloolaba club no matter what level of involvement they can offer.