6th January 2022
Elite Kiwi Surfers Chasing Distinctly Different Titles at Westport
Two of New Zealand’s most celebrated surfers head to the 2022 National Surfing Championships targeting two distinctly different goals this year. Raglan’s Billy Stairmand goes on the hunt to break his own record of eight titles. On the flipside, New Zealand’s most successful surfer, Taranaki’s Paige Hareb, a eight-time World Tour veteran, goes on the hunt for her first.
The 59th edition of the New Zealand National Surfing Championships will be staged at Westport from the 11th – 15th January, only the second time the event has been held on the West Coast of the South Island.
Both Stairmand and Hareb are gearing up for the World Surf League Regional Qualifying Series which commences in Australia early February. The National Championships has been a mainstay in Stairmand’s preparation for international events while Hareb has often been unable to compete due to international commitments, limiting her chances to snare a title.
Entries into the event have exceeded 300 with less than a week to go until the event commences.
The two star-powered surfers will be up against some of the strongest domestic talent who are eager to put their name on the most prestigious surfing trophies in New Zealand.
Hareb will find some strong opposition from several young junior surfers including 2020 National Champion Ava Henderson. The sixteen-year-old South Island surfer based out of Christchurch, won her title at the age of 14, shocking the New Zealand surfing community.
Henderson backed up her title with a fourth-place finish last year, one place behind Hareb. Other young surfers looking to impress will be Brie Bennett (Rag) who surfs outside the age group divisions for the first time and Liv Haysom (Piha), surfing in her final age group year.
Gabrielle Paul (Piha), Natasha Gouldsbury (Tara) and Anna Brock (Mnt) will also challenge for the title, the three young surfers each finishing in the top five of the NZ Surf Series in 2021.
Stairmand will fend off the likes of Taranaki’s Daniel Farr who has finalled at the event before but yet to break through for a win such has been Stairmand’s recent dominance of the event which dates back to his first win in 2010. Since 2010, only three other surfers have taken a title – Jay Quinn (2011 and 2013), Ricardo Christie (2018) and Elliot Paerata – Reid (2020).
Defending Women’s Champion Saffi Vette (Gis) has jumped the ditch early to prepare for the Regional Qualifying Series as has 2021 men’s runner-up Kehu Butler (Mnt) with both surfers unavailable for the Westport edition.
It is expected that one of Westport’s greatest exports, Jai Earnshaw, will make a comeback to the competitive arena. The last time the event was held at Westport (1997), Earnshaw came out of nowhere to win the Under 18 Boys Division and become one of New Zealand’s best surfers. He will be one of a number of local surfers participating at the event along with a big line up of South Island’s best.
“The Nationals is the type of event where we wouldn’t be surprised if a number of participants from 1997 make their way back to Westport with fond memories and take part, most likely in the senior divisions now” commented Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings.
“Not only will they compete, but they will bring their family and children who will carry on the summer tradition” he added.
Westport has a thriving surfing community which is underpinned by the local club Buller Boardriders, who are all eager to bring the event to town.
“It’s been 25 years since the Nationals were last held at Westport and we look forward to welcoming everybody back” said Steve Lee, President of Buller Boardriders.
“Everybody is excited to host the event and have the best surfing in the country take place on our waves. The event window in early January often provides great conditions and we have plenty of waves for everyone to explore both for the event and whilst free surfing” added Lee.
South Island Surfing Association President, Tania Huria highlighted the opportunity to host the event in the South Island again.
“We are always excited to have the event down here and we want to get behind Buller Boardriders as much as possible, it is great for the community” she said.
“Westport is a great part of Aotearoa and it will be fantastic to show off this part of the country and bring the surfing community into the region after some particularly tough times with recent flooding and the lack of international tourists with the border closed. West Coast hospitality truly rules” she added.
Gisborne Boardriders will defend the club title which will be hotly contested by several leading clubs from Raglan, Auckland, Mount Maunganui, Christchurch, Dunedin and the hometown Buller Boardriders. Also up for grabs at the Championships is the Peter Byers Overall Performance of the Event Award.
A total of 29 divisions will be contested including the premier Open Men and Women plus additional divisions comprising of age groups from Under 14 boys and girls through to Over 60s for males and females and Longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard, Bodyboard and Kneeboard disciplines.
Set out below are winners of the major divisions contested for the past five years.
Open Men2017 – Billy Stairmand (Rag) 2018 – Ricardo Christie (Gis) 2019 – Billy Stairmand (Rag) 2020 – Elliot Paerata – Reid (Piha) 2021 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
Open Women2017 – Ella Williams (WGM) 2018 – Raiha Ensor (Mnt) 2019 – Aimee Brown (G Barrier) 2020 – Ava Henderson (Chch) 2021 – Saffi Vette (Gis)
Under 18 Boys Division2017 – Jonas Tawharu (Mnt) 2018 – Conor McLennan (Chch) 2019 – Caleb Cutmore (Rag) 2020 – Jack Lee (Whakatane) 2021 – Finn Vette (Gis)
Under 18 Girls Division2017 – Saffi Vette (Gis) 2018 – Elin Tawharu (Mnt) 2019 – Saffi Vette (Gis) 2020 – Ava Henderson (Chch) 2021 – Ava Henderson (Chch)
Longboard2017 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck) 2018 – Zen Wallis (Piha) 2019 – Jamie Andrews (Tara) 2020 – Ambrose McNeill (Chch) 2021 – Daniel Procter (Gis)
Further InformationFor further information on the 2022 National Surfing Championships please contact Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ImageryHigh resolution action images of the surfing will be available to media free of charge upon request.
Event HotlineThe Surfing New Zealand event hotline is 0211134506. This will be updated daily at approximately 7am with venue, divisions contested and conditions.
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Author: Dan Westerkamp