Race Tips with Rob Howarth and Futureproof Life

Rob Howarth has been coaching kayakers and multisporters for nearly 30 years! As a sponsor of The Rodney Coast Challenge he has been involved with the event for 15 years and we are delighted to have his continuing support with Futureproof Life.

His multisport background also includes coaching and participation for the Kathmandu Coast to Coast (previously the Speight’s Coast to Coast). After 8 personal races Rob is now coaching an Orewa College school team with a view to competing in 2018.

The Rodney Coast Challenge is a great race for individuals, teams and for experienced athletes and novices alike. With four short stages the race will take between 3 hrs 15 minutes and 6 hours, here is a breakdown of the course, transition and some tips to get you going.

Forest Run 10 Km

The race starts on the beach at the end of Rimmers Road in Woodhill Forest. Registration takes place at the start, give yourself plenty of time to set up transitions (see tips). There is plenty of parking at registration.

The race starts with a 250 m run up the sand dunes before turning right onto the forestry road, you will run on the flat for the first couple of Km’s then turn left and begin a steady climb through the forest. There’s is a bit of downhill! But there is plenty of steady up-hills too so make sure you train on some hills and preferably do some off road running too, this will help prepare your legs for the uneven and stony surface

TIP: Where longish socks – this will help prevent sand from getting in between your socks and feet

After 10 Km you will hit the transition area and either hop on your road bike or tag your team mate

Road Bike 30 Km

This is a great cycle stage as there is only one major hill! You start on Rimmers Road and head back to State Highway 16 and on to Helensville and Kaukapakapa. The road to Kaukapakapa is gently undulating and can be quite quick if you don’t have a headwind. On the other side of Kaukapakapa you climb for approx 3 Km before descending towards Makarau. The climb is pretty steep at the beginning and is a good workout for your legs. Once again a bit of hill training helps! Turning right off SH16 takes you on the final 2-3 Km to Makarau and the mountain bike transition

Mountain Bike 25 Km

Once again this is great riding apart from one really grunty hill – the infamous ‘Noakes Hill”!! You ride the whole way on metal roads, meandering and undulating the whole way. Be careful on the downhill corners and stay left, this is an open road. The route takes you right from Transition into Makarau Road, left into Tahekeroa Road, right into Upper Waiwera Road, left into Noakes Hill Road, right into Krippner Road, downhill to Puhoi Park for Kayak transition. Noakes Hill is just less than 3 Km long and is pretty steep!

The “Map my Ride” website puts at at a 9% climb (the RCC mapometer Map shows a 9.5% climb, and a 12.7% descent) so it’s fairly chunky! If you get a chance to head out and ride the course it is well worth it. The descent into Puhoi is steep and fast but does change into tar seal. Once again be careful on the corners, there have been accidents over the years – metal roads and skin don’t mix!

Once in transition it is a quick change or tag to your kayak

Kayak 8 Km

Only 8 Km to go so GO HARD! If you are lucky you will have an outgoing tide to assist you and depending on your kayak and fitness this leg will take you between 38 mins to 80 mins. Get into a good rhythm and try to utilise your body to assist with your paddling – feel free to phone for advice on this one if you are not sure!


  • Don’t cut corners too tight – this is where the slow shallow water will be!

  • Have a look on an on-line satellite map earth or a marine chart to see where the channel runs when the Puhoi opens out – you want to try and work the faster deeper water

Finally you hit the end of the kayak stage and have 100 m SPRINT to the finish, Congratulations!

Transition Set-up

5:30 AM – Kayak Transition opens. Drop your kayak early – place a flag or marker so your support crew can find your kayak again!

Now drive up Krippner Road following the mountain bike course in reverse. At the transition you can drop your mountain bike and any essentials, drinks food etc.

Now it is off to the Run/Bike Transition. Follow the marshal’s directions, rack your bike, shoes and any food you may need. Then you can drive down to the start and registration. Try and arrive no later than 30 min before race briefing at 7:00 AM, with a 7:15 AM Start


If your support crew knows what you want them to do before your race then things will go smoothly! Your support crew will be more stressed than you will be

The biggest factor, especially if you are in a quick team, is driving between transitions. As long as your support crew don’t hang around loading your bikes then they should have plenty of time however if you are fast on the mountain bike stage then there isn’t much room for error. Your crew cannot drive on the course so must back track to SH16 and then turn left onto Kahikatea Flat Road towards Dairy Flat and Silverdale. This route is about 45 Km so approx 40 minutes driving time

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Rob Howarth