Piha Set to Crown National Surfing Champions
New Zealand’s competitive surfing season kicks off this Sunday with country’s preeminent surfing event – the National Surfing Championships presented by Health 2000.
The championships will be held from the 8th – 14th January bringing together New Zealand’s supreme domestic talent to compete over seven days of action.
The primary venue for the championships is the south end of Piha Beach, Auckland. While the weather and westerly winds have made for a less than summery start to the year in the Auckland region, the sand banks at Piha have provided some great waves when conditions have suited.
Defending champions Billy Stairmand (Rag) and Ella Williams (WGM) spearhead the line-up of surfers in the premier Open Men’s and Women’s divisions and will be hoping for some improved weather and good waves next week.
Above: 2016 National Champion Billy Stairmand (Rag) will be going for a fourth straight title at Piha next week.
Stairmand and Williams rode to victory twelve months ago when the champs were contested at St Clair Beach Dunedin.
For Stairmand, it was his third straight title and record-equalling fifth of his career while, for Williams, it was a first title and a title that she has chased since a youngster.
Stairmand will attempt to secure a record-breaking sixth title at Piha next week and in doing so surpass two New Zealand greats in Iain Buchanan and Wayne Parkes both of Auckland.
Stairmand goes into the week in good form too, having finished his 2016 international campaign as the top-ranked Kiwi sitting in 54th on World Qualifying Series.
Above: Ella Williams will go into the Open Women's Division as a raging favourite.
Williams will go into the Open Women’s Division as the number one seed and hot favourite. She will use the event as a build up toward a long string of international events held in Australia from late January.
Williams finished the 2016 year ranked 29th on the World Qualifying Series and will look to make a big jump in 2017 as she eyes a top six finish and qualification for the 2018 World Tour.
Mount Maunganui surfer Matt Hewitt will go into this year’s event as the top seed after finishing runner-up in the New Zealand Surf Series in 2016. The absence of four-time champion Maz Quinn (Gis) has gifted pole position to Hewitt who will go on a search to find the form that saw him burst on to the scene in 2009 with a national title at a sprightly 17 years of age.
In the 54 year history of the event, the National Championships presented by Health 2000 has grown to encompass 22 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.
Over 200 entries have been received for the event. Additional divisions comprise of age groups from Under 14 boys and girls through to Over 60s and also Longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard and Kneeboard disciplines.
2017 marks the twelfth time the event has been held at Piha, second only to Gisborne who have hosted the event 13 times. The event was last held at Piha in 2015.
Above: Maz Quinn hangs up jersey prior to the 2017 National Champs.
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 and kneeboard
Day 3 – Addition of men’s senior age group divisions
Day 4 – Addition of longboard divisions
Day 5 – All above divisions
Day 6 – Addition of SUP Divisions
Day 7 – All divisions plus SUP Race
Added incentive in the Open Men’s and Women’s Divisions will come in the form of the New Zealand Surfing Team being announced before the end of January. The team travels to France in May to compete at the ISA World Surfing Games.
The National Championships also acts as the sole selection event for the SUP Surfing disciplines within the New Zealand Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Team. The team will compete in Norway during September.
Set out below are winners of the major divisions contested for the past five years.
2012 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2013 – Jay Quinn (Gis)
2014 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2015 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2016 – Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2012 – Thandi Durham (Tara)
2013 – Mischa Davis (Piha)
2014 – Grace Spiers (WGM)
2015 – Gabriella Sansom (Auck)
2016 – Ella Williams (WGM)
Junior Men (U/18)
2012 – Tane Wallis (Auck)
2013 – Elliot Paerata – Reid (Piha)
2014 – Dune Kennings (WGM)
2015 – Kehu Butler (Mnt)
2016 – Elliot Brown (Dun)
2012 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
2013 – Daniel Procter (Gis)
2014 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
2015 – Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
2016 – Zen Wallis (Piha)