NZ NATIONAL SUP FESTIVAL 2013


Photographer : Georgia Schofield

We’ve all been hearing NZ’s only professional stand up paddler, Annabel Anderson, wax lyrical for a couple of years now
about how amazing her off-season training grounds are back home.

With up to four competitive SUP events a week in the North Island alone, it is tough training, so the idea of testing NZ paddlers against some of the world’s best at this year’s NZ Nationals was very appealing.

After rounding up hosts amongst the friendly Auckland SUP crowd, event organisers put an invite out to their Pacific neighbours for free event entry, airport transfers, hosting and equipment to use, and soon enough had a decent contingent descending on their fair shores for the two-day battle.

The wind lined up as predicted with light but good 10-15 knot North Easterly seabreezes for the 15km downwinder from Army Bay to Orewa on Saturday, while a small swell rolling in at Orewa Beach made for exciting and challenging technical racing on Sunday.

Volunteer event organizer Shane Murrell was skeptical at first when fellow volunteer Mike Pirrit suggested inviting overseas competitors, but it proved to be a master stroke.

“The interest from Tahiti and Australia was huge and the phone started running hot. Supplying boards, accommodation and picking bloody Australians up from the airport at midnight wasn’t what I signed up for, but to be fair they were great. It’s always refreshing to have travellers arrive with fresh thinking, interesting new boards, and they were all very competition-hardy fast paddlers,” says Shane.

Photographer : Georgia Schofield

The long distance race on day one saw an impressive line up of boards, although still a Starboard-dominated fleet, testament to the years of groundwork Jeremy Stephenson and Victoria Stuart of Starboard SUPSNZ have been putting in to the growth of the race scene downunder.

“Hot favourite Armie Armstrong was my pick, but even though we started from Army Bay he was soon in trouble with a broken paddle. To his credit he finished the race lying down. Next time you want to paddle 10 km on your belly give Armie a bell – I think you’ll find he’s busy,” quips Shane.

Jeremy Stephenson took out line honours on his 14’0 Ace, just beating Jake Jensen (12’6 Elite) into the finish. The overseas boys featured strongly, and although there wasn’t much wind, the down winder was a big success.

Photographer : Georgia Schofield

Spare a thought for the novices and juniors who left from Tindalls beach (7km). As the afternoon wore on the wind clocked more easterly making for a difficult side shore paddle for them that would have tested even the more experienced. They all finished and most crawled back to their cars to recover.

Roll on day two and the slalom-style racing would see the less experienced in with every chance of crashing through the surf to take fame and glory. The day was outstanding and a small swell held in there to make for some entertaining racing that would push most past their comfort levels.

The Battle Of The Paddle racing style has been extremely popular overseas and so it proved at Orewa with close to 100 people signing up. Dressed in their distinctive blue race shirts the overseas paddlers gave most a lesson in how to compete in rolling surf.

Photographer : Georgia Schofield

“The overseas contingent added a flavor we haven’t seen before and I found myself rooting for the kiwis who I normally want so desperately to beat. Guys like Jake Jensen who’s ranked in the world top 10 were blindingly fast and made it look just effortless. From Tahiti, Robert Teriitehau was not only a legend but standing right in front of me,” says Shane.

“I was on Maui one year and this crazy dude turned up. Built like a gorilla, he steps out of a monster truck that that was 10 ft high and rigged up his windsurfer. He had forgotten his harness but went out in double over head waves for two hours anyway. That was my introduction to Robert Teriitehau and here he was in my heat .. awesome.

The beach was chock-a and the atmosphere electric as the day built towards the finals. Scottie Elliot the race director was coming under a lot of pressure from some of the female competitors who were having trouble working out the difference between fourth (you’re through, as in through to the next round) and fifth (you’re really through.. as in out the door) but he held on to get to the action packed final heats, that made TV3 News that night.

World Series Champion Annabel Anderson maintained her position as NZ’s No. 1 female, with gold-medallist sailor Jo Aleh battling it out in a race-off on Sunday for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place with Australians Simone Horsfield and Sondra Purser. Simone took 2nd, Sondra 3rd and Jo 4th, but in the overall NZ Champs tally congratulations go to Annabel 1st, Jo 2nd then Stacey Smith 3rd in the run for the NZ Womens trophy.

Australian paddler Jake Jensen took out double gold in the 12’6 Mens division, with Georges Cronsteadt (Tahiti) and windsurf legend Robert Teriitehau (Tahiti) also putting on a fantastic performance for the crowds of paddlers and spectators lining Orewa’s beach for the SUP Festival.

Photographer : Georgia Schofield

NZ’s King of the Waves Armie Armstrong placed third after Jake and Georges in the knockout surf slalom, while the overall NZ title in the 12’6 Elite Men’s class went to Paul Davis. Only NZ passport holders who competed in the same class both days were eligible for combined points towards the NZ title trophies.

The guys on 14′ foot race boards had a brain explosion and headed to the wrong buoys in their final race, Greg Barfoot making an amazing recovery and taking it out on countback after a three-way tie between Greg, Troy Huston and Bevan Gooch.

The juniors races were fiercely competitive and one or two learnt why it’s important to take your leg rope off before sprinting up the beach. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I’m sure my 11 year old will bounce back even stronger. In first place overall was Oliver Houghton (13), followed by Jack Evans (13), Daniel Orams (13), Oscar Murrell (11) and the only junior girl (and youngest competitor in the event) Brianna Orams (11). These five are all members of the Starboard NZ Junior Development Squad, and have been training together on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer with a host of talented coaches, including Jeremy Stephenson, Shane Murrell, Annabel Anderson, Gavin Houghton and JP Tobin.

Congratulations to Masters paddlers Gavin Houghton (1st), Shane Murrell (2nd) and Mark Houghton (3rd) who all would have outdone their younger counterparts in the Open Mens had they not been blinded by the gleam of the silver teardrop Masters trophy, and also to Masters women Kristin Percy, Rosie Houghton and Julie Wood.

In Surfboard class, kiwi from Oz Stuart Murray dominated, with Allan Gardiner 2nd and Jarrod Barfoot 3rd, while Fleur Picot trumped the womens race, with Denise Gray in 2nd and Nicola Maire in 3rd.

The day went in a blur of sun and fun and ended at the Orewa SLSC for the much anticipated prize giving. Now Armie might have ruled himself out of contention after breaking his paddle on day one but he wasn’t taking it lying down. He won a fantastic prize including two bottles of Jagermeister from Adventure Magazine for his effort finishing the long distance race. He pretty much downed the first bottle before he got off the stage so he was well ahead of everyone as usual from the very start. As you would expect the prize giving descended into a very noisy affair with the trouble makers eventually helping Brian Smith from Pt Chev’s Board Store clean up any remaining alcohol he had in his caravan.

Photographer : Georgia Schofield

“Finding sponsors is always difficult and so it proved again this year. The global financial crisis wasn’t doing the SUP festival any favors and although Radio Network fronted up with $25 grand of radio sponsorship we couldn’t get anyone to sign up for it. But next year is another year and with a little more time I’m sure we will secure a major sponsor. Having said that as a non-profit show it worked pretty well and without the need to keep anyone happy it provides for a relaxed enjoyable contest scene. You cant help but feel its growing its own legs this contest and next year it will be huge !! See you there,“ says Shane.

Thanks to all the fantastic contributors for the great prizes – Magrette for the six incredible watches, Starboard, Naish, Pau Hana, WalkOnWater, SUPCentre, NZ Boardstore, WSP, Underground Surf, Morris Surfboards, Red and Flux. Also thanks to Ocean Fit Nutrition, Water In A Box and R&R Sport for the hydration and energy!

The event raised $400 for the Orewa Surf Lifesaving Club, and the club are being gifted a brand new Starboard Ocean Rescue Board as part of their rescue toolkit.

Full race results are posted on the event page. www.supsnz.com/events/nz-champs-2013

Distance Race Elite Mens
1st Jake Jensen
2nd Georges Cronsteadt
3rd Troy McAsey

Slalom Race Elite Mens
1st Jake Jensen
2nd Georges Cronsteadt
3rd Armie Armstrong

Distance Race Elite Womens
Annabel Anderson
Jo Aleh
Sondra Purser

Slalom Race Elite Women
Annabel Anderson
Simone Horsfield
Sondra Purser

Distance Race 14’0
Jeremy Stephenson
Tamarua Cowan
Troy Huston

Slalom Race 14’0
Bevan Gooch
Greg Barfoot
Troy Huston

Distance Race Masters
Gavin Houghton
Mark Houghton
Shane Murrell

Slalom Race Masters
Gavin Houghton
Shane Murrell
Mark Houghton

Distance Race Juniors
Oliver Houghton
Daniel Orams
Jack Evans

Slalom Race Juniors
Jack Evans
Oliver Houghton
Daniel Orams

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