Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro Looms Large




Above: Billy Stairmand - Photo: Cory / NZ Surfing Magazine



After a two-event stint in the South Island, the New Zealand Surf Series returns to the North Island this weekend for the Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro which starts on Friday and runs through until Sunday (27-29 April).

The recently upgraded event has attracted 140 entries from surfers throughout the country searching for national ranking points and a chance to surf the famed left-hand point breaks.  For the past four years, the event has focussed on the youth of New Zealand but with the support of Oceanbridge, the event now includes Open Men’s and Women’s Divisions as well as Under 18 and Under 16 Divisions.

Despite an unexpected early exit at the National Championships in January and a lower than normal seeding going into this event, Raglan’s Billy Stairmand will undoubtedly be the surfer to watch. 

The 28-year-old is searching for competitive form both in New Zealand and abroad.  Competing at home this weekend could see him break out of a slump that sees him ranked 20th in New Zealand and 359th on the World Surf League Qualifying Series.

Stairmand will have to fight hard this weekend with in-form surfers returning from the South Island leg as well as surfers returning to the competitive arena for the first time this year.

Number one seed, Piha’s Zen Wallis, contests the event after posting a career-first title at the Emerson’s South Island Championships and going on to back that up with a runner up finish last weekend at the Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Championships.

Number two seed Levi Stewart (Waihi Beach) spent several years living in Raglan and attending the Raglan Area School Surfing Academy and after a third place finish at the National Championships, he will want to challenge the best this weekend for another finals berth.

Local surfers set to upset the seedings will be the likes of Taylor Hutchison, Luke Hughes and Luke Cederman.  Hughes and Cederman will be competing for the first time this year as are Mount Maunganui’s Alex Dive and Matt Hewitt who will make the journey west for the event.

The Open Women’s Division will be highlighted by National Champion Raiha Ensor (Mnt) who is back in action after her January victory. 

The 18-year-old Bay of Plenty surfer is residing in Hamilton and attending Waikato University on a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship but has been spending her fair share of time in the Raglan line up in between competing overseas at international events.

Ensor’s closest rival Elin Tawharu (Mnt) has opted to stay in New Zealand for the event this weekend rather than compete overseas at the Pro Junior event on the Gold Coast and her lethal forehand attack is a major threat to any surfer at Raglan.

The two surfers will also be up against the likes of the Sansom sisters Bianca and Gabriella, the latter finishing runner up at the National Championships in January.

Local surfers set to give the top seeds a run for their money include Jessica Santorik, Indica Ratima and the young 14-year-old Brie Bennett.

Bennett has a big weekend ahead contesting all three female divisions including the Under 16 Girls Division where she holds down the top seed.  In the Under 18 Girls Division, Bennett will have her work cut out with the likes of Elin Tawharu and number one seed Tegen Bishop (Chch) set to compete.

The junior boys divisions are stacked full of talent led by Conor McLennan (Chch) and Caleb Cutmore (Ham) in the Under 18s and Tom Robinson (Whngrei) and Kora Cooper (Rag) in the Under 16s.

Participants in the junior divisions have one last chance to shine before the New Zealand Junior Surfing Team is announced at the end of May.  The team will be competing at the International Surfing Association World Junior Championship later in the year with the location and timing yet to be confirmed.  The team will comprise three surfers in each of the Under 18 and 16 divisions for boys and girls.

The Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro is the fourth event of the New Zealand Surf Series which caters for New Zealand’s top male and female surfers.

The Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro will take three full days of surfing to complete with all finals being held on Sunday afternoon.  The event will be mobile with the option of running at Ruapuke if there is no surf at Manu Bay. 

The surf is expected to start out small on Friday and build through into Sunday.  A complex low pressure system is developing in the Tasman making swell and weather forecasts challenging for later in the week and going into the weekend.

The provisional draw has been published on the Surfing New Zealand website and can be viewed here.

Please see below for current rankings for all of the divisions being contested this weekend at the Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro being held at Raglan from the 27 – 29 April.  Full rankings can be viewed here.

Open Men’s Division Top 10
1, Zen Wallis (Piha)
2, Elliott Brown (Dun)
3, Levi Stewart (Waihi Bch)
4, Elliot Paerata Reid (Piha)
5, Ricardo Christie (Mahia)
6, Sam Sands (Chch)
7, Harrison Whiteside (ChCh)
8, Conor McLennan (Chch)
9, Taylor Hutchison (Rag)
10, Thomas Harcourt (Chch)

Open Women’s Division Top 10
1, Raiha Ensor (Mnt)
2, Tegen Bishop (Chch)
3, Gabriella Sansom (Auck)
4, Britt Kindred (Mur)
5, Estella Hungerfrd (Chch)
6, Elin Tawahru (Mnt)
7, Saffi Vette (Gis)
8, Bianca Sansom (Auck)
9, Zhana Hutchieson (Tara)
9, Abigail Daunton (Gis)

Under 18 Boys Division Top 5
1, Conor McLennan (Chch)
2, Caleb Cutmore (Ham)
3, Jared Gebert (Ohope)
4, Myka Black (Chch)
5, Shane Kraus (Piha)

Under 16 Boys Division Top 5
1, Myka Black (Chch)
2, Tom Robinson (Whngrei)
3, Kora Cooper (Rag)
4, Josef Jungwirth (Rag)
5, Jack Lee (Whaka)

Under 18 Girls Division Top 5
1, Tegen Bishop (Chch)
2, Aimee Brown (Auck)
3, Kea Smith (Arataki)
4, Tiana - Breeze de Mooj (Mnt)
5, Eden Gray (Aus)

Under 16 Girls Division Top 5
1, Brie Bennett (Rag)
2, Estella Hungerford (Chch)
3, Georgia Wederell (Mnt)
4, Charlie Phillips (Aus)
5, Ariana Shewry (Tara)
6, Anna Brock (Mnt)