Longboarders to the fore
It was a mixed bag for Gisborne surfers on Day 4 of the national surfing championships at Piha as the longboarders and under-14 surfers took to the water.
With shifting conditions throughout the day, some local surfers excelled while others struggled to find waves with the scoring potential to advance through their heats.
The men's longboarders entered the fray and were met with the best conditions of the day, pumping running left-handers at the south end of the beach.
An easing swell, a brisk offshore wind and two-to-four-foot surf set the platform for impressive performances from longboarder Daniel Procter and Patrick “Magoo” Braithwaite in the over-45 division. They both progressed through their heats with relative ease.
In their first heat, multiple national champion Procter and up-and-comer Geordie Sawyer, both from Gisborne, faced off against stiff competition.
It was a blockbuster line-up with National Scholastics under-18 longboard champion Benjamin Counsell and multiple-time national champion Thomas Kibblewhite battling it out to advance to the semifinals.
Procter impressed with his cross-stepping style, carves and nose-riding to come away with a convincing win. His 14.65-point total included an eight-point ride and was enough to beat Kibblewhite (10.5), Sawyer (8.9) and Counsell (8.75).
The heat was a great learning experience for Sawyer, who impressed with his style and flow and will take great confidence going into his under-18 longboard heats in the coming days.
Procter followed up his first-round win with another first placing in the semifinal. Again, he impressed the judges with some solid surfing as the conditions started to change. His 11.4 heat total was enough to progress to the final alongside Natt Fitt from Auckland (9.25).
The day had opened with the u14 boys' division, the youngest division at the nationals. In shifty waves, 11-year-old Ollie Tong, surfing in his first national championships, surfed well but couldn't find the better-shaped waves and finished third in his four-man heat.
Tong finished with a 7.45-point total to fall short of Sam Frazerhurst (Auckland, 12.25) and Kauai Rahui (Whangarei, 11).
Gabe Lobb took lessons from Tong's heat and stayed busy, unleashing some strong carves, to find two decent scoring waves and progress through to the next heat. He finished in second place with a 9.8-point total alongside division favourite Tao Mouldey (Mt Maunganui), who finished with a 16.15-point total.
Lobb moved on to the quarterfinals being held today.
Braithwaite continued his recent string of form later in the afternoon, progressing through his first-round heat in the over-45 division. Two big backhand “hammers” as the tide dropped and conditions became more difficult helped him dominate his opposition with a 12.4 heat total. His score was a full seven points clear of the the next-best surfer, Mike Mulcahy from Piha, who could amass only a 5.4 total from his two best waves.
Chris “Bugsy” Malone was unlucky not to make it in his over-35 semifinal after leading early in the heat, finishing in third place with a 9.15 heat total behind Thomas Kibblewhite (12.6) and Chayne Dowsett (Whangarei, 10.55).
Day 5 promises to bring good conditions again, with a slight drop in swell size and the introduction of the u14 girls, other longboard divisions, stand-up paddleboards, bodyboards and adaptive surfing.