It was a close finish in the Rudderless 16km Men's race on the Waitematā Harbour today.
New Zealand's Tupuria King, and Tahitian World Long Distance champion Kevin Ceran-Jerusalemy (Kevin C-J) finished in an official dead heat, with Kevin C-J declared the winner.
King, however, recaptured the long distance crown he held for four years between 2013 and 2018.
He says, "It was a tough race, I was expecting it to be a tough race. We've got here two paddlers from Tahiti, one being the current world champion [C-J]- and Manutea Millon."
Millon is a former national champion himself and ranked highly in Tahiti.
As the first Kiwi across the line, King qualifies for the World Long Distance Championships later this year.
"[I'm] pretty stoked to represent New Zealand again at the worlds," King says.
He adds that being pushed all the way by Kevin C-J is a bonus, "it's a good gauge for me today."
The champion Tahitian said his objective was to help get King across the line to secure the one New Zealand spot for the World Champs in Australia.
"We work together, me and Tupu, and I pushed him to get the first place for New Zealand."
King says he can take a lot of confidence out today's result, proving he can keep up with the best in the world. However, he admits it will likely be a different story in a couple of months.
"I'd like to say he was going easy on me today, but when it comes down to the worlds I'm going to give it my all too," he says.
Ceran-Jerusalemy says he will also have to work hard to keep the title he won in 2017.
"When I go back to to Tahiti, I'm going to work hard to get first place in August," he says.
The World Long Distance Championships will be held in Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, Australia in August.
This year's New Zealand Long Distance Championships are expected to be the biggest so far, with more than 1,000 paddlers to take to Okahu Bay over the weekend.