Gisborne’s Ricardo Christie will make his first appearance at the Health 2000 National Surfing Championships in four years when the event commences along the coastline of Gisborne tomorrow (Sunday 7th January).
Christie based himself on the Gold Coast of Australia over the past three years and with international commitments, has found himself unable to compete at New Zealand’s most prestigious domestic event.
A return to Gisborne at the start of summer and a break in his competitive calendar means that Christie will go in search of a second national title before heading back to the international arena.
Christie’s first title was secured 13 years ago in 2005 when, as a surfing prodigy, he burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old.
“Can’t wait to compete, it will be cool to catch up with everyone and hopefully we get some fun waves over the week” Christie said adding “The event is in my home town which makes it extra special as well” as he headed toward Mahia for a warm up today.
Christie has already been talking to a lot of his peers who he will compete against this week noting the field of surfers will be as good as it gets. “I have seen Maz training at Makorori, and yeah, he looks fitter than ever, I reckon everyone is going to get super competitive this week” exclaimed Christie.
Christie will remain in the country for another month before heading to Australia for the first major Qualifying Series events in mid-February.
With the event on the doorstep of semi-retired Maz Quinn and fellow Gisborne surfing legend Bobby Hansen, further talent has been added to the field of surfers participating from around the country.
While Quinn is yet to find the elusive fifth title, Raglan surfer Billy Stairmand surpassed him in 2017 claiming a fifth, his current winning sequence dating back to 2014. A win at this edition of the event will see Stairmand equal the record of five straight titles held by Auckland surfers Iain Buchanan and Wayne Parkes.
While the field of surfers in the Open Men’s Division can draw on thirteen titles, in contrast the Open Women’s Division has two past champions in Albany’s Gaby Sansom (2015) and Whangamata’s Grace Spiers (2014).
Paige Hareb’s World Tour qualification rules her out of competing and together with Ella Williams (WGM), the two surfers will be competing at their first World Qualifying event in Florida right on the back of the National Champs.
The absence of Hareb and Williams, who won the event for the past two years, opens the door for a new wave of junior surfers to stamp their mark on New Zealand Surfing.
A trio of young New Zealand representatives from Mount Maunganui will feel their time is now. Elin Tawharu, Raiha Ensor and Kea Smith have all had excellent junior careers and a title this week would top their domestic campaigns.
Another junior surfer to watch will be local Saffi Vette who last year claimed both the Under 16 and 18 titles at the Nationals. With the event being held only just down from her family home, the 16 year old could produce a career defining result this week.
The East Coast’s surfing mecca of Gisborne will host the event from 7th – 13th January.
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.
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 from Under 14 through to Over 60 for males and females, longboard, kneeboard and paddleboard. Over 300 entries have been received for the event.
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 at Gisborne in 2014.
The draw for the premier Open Men’s and Women’s Divisions plus juniors can be found on the Surfing New Zealand website.
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