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Bryant champion again

Surfing

It was a homecoming of sorts. Home to a surf spot down the road from where he lived, home to the scene of past victories and home to the peak of New Zealand waveski surfing.

Nigel Bryant is national waveski surfing champion again, triumphing on old turf against old rivals as the Whales break served up near-perfect conditions for the 2021 New Zealand Open Titles — just a day after a messy southerly put a question mark over any surfing.

The 46-year-old from Hawke’s Bay has had multiple national titles but so have the three he had to beat in the open final . . . many-times New Zealand champion Dave Mitchell of Queenstown, a podium finisher at world championships over a long career; Justin Parry of Auckland, a former world junior champion out of South Africa; and Gisborne’s evergreen Steve Gibbs, who has a room full of age-group titles, plus two world veteran crowns.

Ask any of them how many titles they have and watch their minds go blank.

Gibbs beat off younger surfers Gary Storms and Vince Gardner, both of Auckland, for a deserved fourth slot in the open final but it was the three who shared the national crown at countless Gisborne-based contests who gave a display of wave selection and manoeuvres.

Bryant appeared in earlier rounds to be the one to beat and although the scoring was tight, all three judges had him clear winner ahead of 2018 champion Mitchell and 2016 champ Parry.

Bryant said he gave everything he had in both masters and open finals. Grabbing a couple of good waves moments before the green flag went up gave him momentum and confidence to stick to his game plan.

To show how close these guys are in skill, Mitchell reversed the result in the masters age group to beat Bryant, with Parry third.

The grandmasters age-group title went to Vince Gardner over Gary Storms, while contest director Steve Gibbs ticked off another veteran crown against Dave Conway.

Exactly how many times Gisborne has hosted this annual surfing event is hazy but it has been more than half of the past 30 Easters, Covid year aside.

Bryant knows Gisborne surfers well and complimented them again, as he has in the past, for the way they always respect contest venues on what is one of Gisborne’s busiest surfing weekends.

And he looks forward to being able to compete at world championship events again as New Zealand champion . . . when normality returns.

Waveski Champ: National waveski surfing champion Nigel Bryant shows the form that won him the title at the Whales break on Sunday. Pictures by Paul Rickard
ON THE CREST OF A WAVE: Justin Parry carves up a wave in the open final of the national waveski surfing championships.
Across the face: Gisborne waveski surfer Steve Gibbs made the national open final but finished outside the top three. He did, however, win the national veteran title.
ORDER REVERSED: National champion in 2018, Dave Mitchell finished runner-up to Nigel Bryant in the open final of the waveski surfing champs on Sunday, but the result was reversed in the masters age group, where Mitchell was first and Bryant second.