Health 2000 National Surfing Championships Set to Kick Off 2018


Above: Billy Stairmand (Rag), defending champion, and also the winner of the event when last held at Gisborne



The Health 2000 New Zealand Surfing Championships 2018 is a little over a week away with the East Coast’s surfing mecca of Gisborne set to host the vast New Zealand surfing community from all corners of the country from the 7th – 13th January.

The Championships bring together surfers across all disciplines and age groups, but now more than ever, the event has a key focus on high performance as the country’s elite surfers eye off Tokyo 2020 qualification when surfing makes its Olympic debut. 

The Health 2000 National Surfing Championships forms the first leg of the 2018 New Zealand Surf Series which in turn provides a vital pathway toward the ISA World Surfing Games, a key Olympic qualification event.

Surfing New Zealand recently hosted an Olympic Workshop bringing together the top athletes and coaches in the country with a target firmly set 36 months ahead and the drive to have Kiwi surfers represented at the first Olympic event. 

The International Surfing Association (ISA) has now submitted the qualification process to the International Olympic Committee for approval (scheduled for February) when it will be confirmed that up to four New Zealand athletes could be represented at the Olympic Games.

One of the essential steps to qualification will be sending a strong team to the ISA World Surfing Games being held in Japan this September, which for the first time will include four females.  An outstanding team result at this event will ensure that New Zealand goes into the first qualification event in 2019 with a good ranking.



Above: Defending Open Women's Champion Ella Williams



Qualification will also be an option for the top surfers on the WSL World Tour, of which Paige Hareb (Tara) becomes a part of in 2018.  Three years of hard graft on the Qualifying Series has seen Hareb rejoin the elite ranks where she competed from 2009 - 2014.  Her qualification means she is unable to compete at the National Championships this January. 

Another absent surfer will be Kehu Butler who has crossed the Tasman this week as he builds up to the World Surf League (WSL) World Junior Championship starting on the 4th January at Kiama, New South Wales.  Butler is the only Kiwi eligible to compete at the event in 2018.

The junior age group divisions will take on additional meaning at the National Championships with the New Zealand Grom Series reverting back to Under 14, 16, 18 and 20 age groups from 2018.  A good result at the Nationals can set up a surfer for the rest of the year and this will have the future stars of the sport anticipating a big event.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, the possibility of good waves along the Gisborne coastline is set to attract a raft of older surfers competing in the senior age group divisions.  And with the hotbed of local surfing talent that has progressed through the ranks in the last 30 years, the senior divisions will be a great spectacle.

For the first time, the senior divisions will include age groups for all female surfers, a directive that has been led by host Gisborne Boardriders with their strong history of female surfers and previous champions in the region.  It is expected that a number of ex-New Zealand representatives and past champions will join in on the fun for the week and be part of the event.

Raglan’s Point Boardriders will go into the event as defending club champions, a title that the hosts will be eager to keep in their region at the event’s end.  Also up for grabs will be the Overall Performance of the Event and President’s Scholarship which were both won by Elliot Brown (Dun) earlier this year.

In the 54 year history of the event, the Health 2000 National Surfing Championships has grown to encompass 29 divisions spread across all disciplines and age groups making for a largely inclusive event filled with high-level surfing as well as good times in and out of the water.

It is expected close to 300 entries will be received for the event.  Additional divisions comprise of age groups from Under 14 boys and girls through to Over 60s for males and females and also Longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard and Kneeboard disciplines.

2018 marks the fourteenth time the event has been held at Gisborne, the most out of any location in the country.  The event was last held in Gisborne in 2014.

Fast Facts
The National Championships includes 29 divisions for multiple groups and disciplines
The event will cater for all female senior age groups beyond Over 30s for the first time in 2018
6-time title holder Billy Stairmand is aiming for five straight titles to equal current record
Ella Williams is aiming for a third straight title
 
Below is a schedule of events that will take place with surfing being held from 8am – 4pm daily.

Day 1 – Open Men, Junior Boys divisions
Day 2 – Addition of Women’s divisions
Day 3 – Addition of Men’s senior age group divisions
Day 4 – Addition of Longboard divisions
Day 5 – Addition of SUP Divisions
Day 6 – Addition of SUP Divisions and Kneeboard
Day 7 – All divisions plus SUP Race

Set out below are winners of the major divisions contested for the past five years.

Open Men
2013 – Jay Quinn (Gis)
2014 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2015 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2016 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2017 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)

Open Women
2013 – Mischa Davis (Piha)
2014 – Grace Spiers (WGM)
2015 – Gabriella Sansom (Auck)
2016 – Ella Williams (WGM)
2017 – Ella Williams (WGM)

Under 18 Boys Division
2013 – Elliot Paerata – Reid (Piha)
2014 – Dune Kennings (WGM)
2015 – Kehu Butler (Mnt)
2016 – Elliot Brown (Dun)
2017 – Jonas Tawharu (Mnt)

Under 18 Girls Division
2013 – Jasmine Smith (Gis)
2014 – Jasmine Smith (Gis)
2015 – Kea Smith (Mnt)
2016 – Elin Tawharu (Mnt)
2017 – Saffi Vette (Gis)

Longboard
2013 – Daniel Procter (Gis)
2014 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
2015 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
2016 – Zen Wallis (Piha)
2017 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)