Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro Last Major Event of Season
Raglan’s Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro commences this Friday and runs through the weekend (3-5 May), its completion marking the end of the event season here in New Zealand.
The country’s top surfers will be eager to finish season on a high as they head into winter which for some will be about carrying onto higher honours competing overseas representing New Zealand.
One such surfer will be Raglan local Caleb Cutmore who goes into this weekend as the top seed at the event, an unfamiliar position for the youngster.
At 17 years of age, Cutmore could close out the New Zealand Surf Series with a win this weekend by gaining an unattainable points advantage over his nearest opponents with one event remaining in November.
Cutmore would have to overcome some stacked odds and would only be the third goofy-foot surfer to win a national event at Raglan in the past decade. The most recent was defending champion Luke Cederman (Rag) whose form would suggest a title defence is also a possibility after his runner-up finish at the Rip Curl Pro three weeks ago.
Above: Caleb Cutmore. Photo: Luke Larking
Both surfers will be relieved to see current number one ranked surfer Billy Stairmand absent from the event, Stairmand is currently in the middle of a qualifying series event in Indonesia. Gisborne’s Maz Quinn is also absent this weekend after winning the Canterbury Championships less than a week ago.
For the Women, it is a total role reversal with six of the last nine titles going to goofy-foot surfers predominantly by way of Ella Williams with four titles and Jess Santorik (Rag) with two. Both surfers will be absent from competition this weekend giving ratings leader Raiha Ensor (Mnt) a big advantage over her young opponents. Ensor won the most recent event at Raglan and spends most of her time surfing Manu Bay while she studies at Waikato University.
Two surfers have enough points to catch Ensor and claim the New Zealand Surf Series. They include defending event champion Aimee Brown (GB) and Gisborne’s Saffi Vette. Both surfers will have to edge past Ensor this weekend to bridge the points gap. They know full well they are capable of doing just that after going one-two at the National Championships held in January.
This year’s edition of the Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro includes the return of the Under 20 Divisions which have stacked fields of young surfers, many of whom will be competing up a division in the Open and also down a division in the Under 16s.
Surfers competing in the Under 16s this weekend have one last chance to shine before the New Zealand Junior Surfing Team is announced. 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.
Taranaki surfers Tom Butland and Natasha Gouldsbury go into this weekend as the number one seeds, each with two wins this season.
The Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro is the sixth 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. The event will be mobile with the option of running at Ruapuke if there is no surf at Manu Bay.
A pulse of swell is expected at Manu Bay on Friday before the surf fades into the weekend. Light variable and offshore winds are forecast for all three days.
The provisional draw has been published on the Surfing New Zealand website and can be viewed here.
Please see below for the New Zealand Surf Series rankings. Full rankings can be viewed here.
Open Men’s Division Top 10
1, Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2, Maz Quinn (Gis)
3, Caleb Cutmore (Ham)
4, Levi Stewart (Waihi Bch)
5, Zen Wallis (Piha)
6, Jack Lee (Whaka)
7, Taylor Hutchison (Rag)
8, Callum Chuter (Mnt)
9, Dune Kennings (Whmata)
10, Alex Dive (Mnt)
Open Women’s Division Top 10
1, Raiha Ensor (Mnt)
2, Aimee Brown (GB)
3, Saffi Vette (Gis)
4, Ella Williams (Whmata)
5, Natasha Gouldsbury (Tara)
6, Gabrielle Paul (Piha)
7, Georgia Wederell (Mnt)
8, Lily McDonald (Te Aroha)
9, Estella Hungerford (Chch)
10, Billie Scott (Whangarei)