Strong calibre of surfers take to the waves at National Championship

By Moana Makapelu Lee

The National Surfing championships kicked off at Gisborne's Midway Beach today with New Zealand's top surfers back to defend their titles and young talent there to challenge them. 

Grey skies were all that remained of the New Year storm at Midway Beach, as athletes gathered for action.

Organiser Ben Kennings told Te Kāea, “The special thing about this year's titles is that we're back in Gisborne. Gisborne has hosted the titles the most times out of any region since 1963, 14 times the events been held here so it's always a good place to come back to and as you can see today we've had some amazing waves.”

Over 300 hundred athletes will go head to head this week for the top titles. This year's top contender includes Ngāpuhi and Rongomaiwahine's pro-surfer Ricardo Christie who returns after three years.

”He's our highest rank international surfer at the moment, so him along with Billy Steerman and the local boy Maz Quinn, who you can't really go past trying to find that 5th title. So between those three I think you've got some pretty good options for the finals.”

Young surfers in both the boys and girls divisions also dominate at this year's Nationals. Junior surfers like Kaya Horne, won't be settling for less than a win.

Horne says, “Hopefully a win, always aim to win. Never aim for less.”

Kennings says to win comes with national prestige, with surfers carry bragging rights into the new season. 

“'It's the most prestigious event in New Zealand. It has such a long history, all the top surfers will be listed on that cup that they get at the end of the week.”

The competition ends on Saturday.