I have paddled in races all over the world and Vaka Eiva has got to be the ultimate in outrigger race venues. No-where else compares to the combination of race organisation, choice of races, and all out fun.
What I really enjoy is the schedule. There is a rest day between races so you have the opportunity to sight see, shop, and sleep in after a day of racing and a fun night of partying with other paddlers and locals too!
Rarotonga reminds me of what Hawaii must have been 100 years ago. The island is absolutely stunning with white coral sand, marine reserves for snorkelling, and no high rises or major development to mar the beauty of the area. You can drive around the island in less than an hour, and hike across it in a few hours .
The people here take obvious pride in their island home as there is never rubbish on the side of the roads or on the beaches, and I was really happy to see there is a recycling programme here. They are so ahead of their time in working towards a sustainable life here, the world should use Rarotonga as an example.
The locals are so polite and friendly, they are genuinely happy to see you! The food is great, always made fresh and the cafes have the best coffee and pastries, it is fun to go to a new place every day and try the daily creations.
This is my second year coming to Raro for the race, and I am having even more fun this year. I have met up with friends I met last year and making new ones too.
One of the highlights of the week is the Wednesday sprints at the Muri Lagoon. Throughout the day there are fun games and activities in between the races. There is the fly-the-ama contest, pass the coconut, and tattoo contest. Probably the best party of the week is Wednesday’s ‘Muri Mingler’night as the paddlers are treated dinner and there is a band right there on the beach.
The race week culminates in the Round Raro race on Friday. Being a change race, you have the opportunity to see the island from the ocean when you are on the chase boat. The island is beautiful with its Bali Hai mountains and cliffs. One last party that night and another Vaka Eiva comes to a close.
I am going to come back every year if I can. It is just too much fun to miss. You definitely get your money’s worth in racing, fun and culture here in Rarotonga.
Mahalo nui loa to all the Cook Islanders who make this place so special.
Jane McKee, 53, has been paddling for 19 years. She was the Hawaii state champion in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and was third in the Molokai Solo world championships in May, which she considers her best result to date.