SUP surf comp brings Māori from all corners

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes
  • North Island: East Coast

The annual Tairāwhiti Stand Up Paddleboard Surfing Championships are on in Gisborne, bringing people from all corners and cultures together with a unique vibe of whanaungatanga. 

Tame Crawford of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti grew up on the East Coast and is now living in Australia, but came back for the weekend competition. Crawford says, “This is my first competition, I came back from Australia to support the cause and I'm stoked I came home to take part.”

Organiser Peter Boyd says that stand up paddleboard surfing comes naturally to Māori and that his ancestors were masters at it.

“There are some early missionary writings of a Reverend Stack and he saw our tipuna out there on stand up paddle boards, double hull craft they were fisherman, he also commented on their skills in the heavy surf and them using elongated paddles”, says Boyd.

50 competitors from NZ and abroad are taking part in what is the 6th annual Tairāwhiti SUP surfing competition. Those participating say that the Māori theme of whanaungatanga makes the competition unique from any other.

2nd in the Open Women's division and third in the world, Stella Smith of Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou says, “It's completely different to any other comp I've ever done you kind of just wake up go to the beach surf your heat and then just go home and this is a kind of a lot more inviting and welcoming and I've met so many people here that if I didn't do this sport I probably never would have met.”

A growing discipline in Aotearoa is foil surfing with the competition showcasing some of the best. Peter Boyd says it's another avenue for Māori to connect to the sea.

“Historically a lot of our double-hull waka, one story I heard, Nukutere, possibly had foil technology that was incorporated in its design so it’s not a new thing for Māori.”

Boyd says foiling is the next big thing for a new generation of upcoming Māori surfers on the East Coast.