Auckland's Piha Beach awaits the best surfers in New Zealand as the 2012 Hyundai National Surfing Championships fast approaches with the week-long surfing event cxommencing Sunday (15th January).
New Zealand's top internationally ranked male surfer Jay Quinn (Gis) is currently returning to Auckland from his base in Australia and will be out to defend his title and showcase the amazing form that has seen him rise up the world rankings to 41st at the end of 2011.
Quinn's title defence was made considerably easier today with the late withdrawal of his older brother Maz who has failed to recover from a back injury sustained only days into the new year.
Maz has won four titles and has been on a six year quest for his fifth title which would see him equal the feats of Wayne Parkes and Iain Buchanan both of Auckland. The quest will now extend a further year.
Jay won his second Open Men's Division national title at Dunedin in 2011, his first coming at home in Gisborne during the 2008 edition of the event. A third title would see him surrounded by the company of New Zealand's most iconic surfers.
"When you have a couple of titles you start to dream about having more" Quinn said adding "I feel like I've got a few more in me still."
The 2012 event marks the 50th anniversary of Surfing New Zealand. Jay Quinn is well aware of the long history behind the National Championships with his family being as big of a part as any surfing family in New Zealand. "When you take time to look at the names on the trophy like Iain Buchanan and Al Byrne, you want to have your name on there as many times as possible alongside their multiple titles."
The rigours of competing internationally against the best in the world is a different ball game according to Quinn who travels the world for over six months of the year accumulating points towards his international ranking. In that sense, the National Champs is a "relaxed event." However he does admit that the physical preparation to a domestic event here in New Zealand is no different and that Piha is a break that he enjoys surfing despite not having notched up a significant event win there previously.
For the oldest of the two brothers, Maz, it will be the first time that he has not competed at the event since 2002 when he was restricted to competing in only ASP events.
Jay will still have a bevy of New Zealand's best surfers to compete against including his international travelling companions Richard Christie (Mahia) and Billy Stairmand (Rag). The three surfers travel the world together competing and have gone head-to-head on several occasions leaving their friendships at the waters edge. This event will be no different with Christie (2005) and Stairmand (2010) holding a title a piece. They will aim to get level with Quinn at this event by securing the second ever national titles.
There will also be the likes of New Zealand based surfer Bobby Hansen (Gis) who is on the comeback after shoulder reconstruction left him land locked for the best part of 2011. Hansen has reportedly been in exceptional form back in Gisborne and relishing the chance to again match up alongside the hot bed of Gisborne surfing talent over the early part of summer.
In the Women's Division, defending champion Airini Mason will be missing from the draw after she made a comeback to New Zealand events in 2011 and took out her second title in the Women's Division. The absence of Airini as well as her phenom sister Sarah and Paige Hareb (Tara) who is restricted to contesting ASP events only leaves one ex-champion in the draw - Raglan's Jessica Santorik.
Santorik last won the event in 2005 at Opunake but has come close to winning on several other occasions. Santorik will head up a young looking draw in the Women's Division with the likes of 17 year old duo Ella Williams (Gis) and Jayda Martin - Fitzharris (Gis) front runners to progress through to the final and challenge for their first national title.
The surf forecast is looking changeable during the first few days of the event. "Sunday we can expect the wind to back off and swing more to the south west but the swell will still be big and raw from the storm that is moving across the country today and tomorrow. By Tuesday we should see nice surface conditions with afternoon sea breezes and clean swell" said surf forecaster Paul Greenland from Auckland Surf.
The all encompassing seven day event will run from the 15th - 21st of January. Please see below for a guide to when divisions are expected to be contested.
Day 1 (Sun 15th Jan) - All longboard, SUP Surf and SUP Race, U14 Boys, U16 Boys
Day 2 (Mon 16th Jan) - All longboard, SUP Surf, U14 Boys, U16 Boys
Day 3 (Tues 17th Jan) - Open Men, Under 18, 16, 14 Boys, All longboard, SUP Surf
Day 4 (Wed 18th Jan) - Open Men, Under 18, 16, 14 Boys, All longboard, SUP Surf, All Women's, All Seniors
Day 5 (Thurs 19th Jan) - Open Men, Under 18, 16, 14 Boys, All longboard, SUP Surf, All Women's, All Seniors, Kneeboard"
Day 6 (Fri 20th Jan) - Open Men, Under 18, 16, 14 Boys, All longboard, SUP Surf, All Women's, All Seniors, Potentially some finals
Day 7 (Sat 21st Jan) - Finals, All Bodyboard
The Hyundai National Championships were first held in 1963 when they took place at Mount Maunganui. In its infancy, the event comprised Open Men's and Women's as well as Under 18 Men's divisions only. Since then it has grown to comprise a colossal 25 divisions across all disciplines and the 2012 edition will crown New Zealand's 500th national champion.
The event is the first event of the New Zealand Pro Series and second of five on the 2012 Hyundai Tour, the first having been held at Raglan last weekend.
It will be the ninth time the event has been held at Piha. The Hyundai National Surfing Championships is the most prestigious domestic surfing event in New Zealand.
Twenty five national titles will go up for grabs at the Hyundai National Championships. As well as the premier Open Men's and Open Women's Divisions, there will be a further 23 divisions comprising of age groups from Under 14 through to Over 50s and also longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard, Bodyboard and Kneeboard disciplines.
Set out below are the winners of key divisions for the past five years.
2007 - Daniel Kereopa (Rag)
2008 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2009 - Matt Hewitt (Mnt)
2010 - Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2011 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2007 - Wini Paul (Sandy Bay)
2008 - Angie Koops (Kaik)
2009 - Daisy Thomas (Chch)
2010 - Laura Rishworth (Mnt)
2011 - Airini Mason (Chch)
Junior Men (U/18)
2007 - Paco Divers (Sandy Bay)
2008 - Sean Peggs (Tairua)
2009 - Ryan Hawker (Piha)
2010 - Johnny Hicks (Gis)
2011 - Ben Poulter (Rag)
2007 - Daniel Kereopa (Rag)
2008 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2009 - Daniel Proctor (Gis)
2010 - Dylan Barnfield (Ohope)
2011 - Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
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