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Westport to host surfing champs

The 59th New Zealand National Surfing Championships will be staged in Westport from January 10-16, 2022, the second time the event has been held on the West Coast of the South Island.

The National Championships bring together the best surfers in New Zealand and with the World Surf League Regional Qualifying Series events in February, the very best Kiwi talent will be available to attend.

“The Nationals is the type of event where we wouldn’t be surprised if a number of participants from 1997 make their way back to Westport with fond memories and take part, most likely in the senior divisions now,” said Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings.

When the event was last held at Westport in 1997, the event was won by Auckland’s Andrew Robinson and Taranaki’s Heather Dent.

It was a young local surfer, Jai Earnshaw, who stormed to victory in the Under 18 Boys Division. Earnshaw went on to be one of New Zealand’s best surfers. He recently returned from Australia and lives in Westport, where he enjoys plenty of pumping waves up and down the coast. Earnshaw will be one of the local hopefuls in the event in January.

Fast forward to 2021 and Billy Stairmand won his eighth national title, as did Gisborne’s Saffi Vette, who won her first in the Open Women’s Division.

Both surfers will be out to defend their titles, Stairmand likely only being home for weeks after a four-month stint on the WSL Challenger Series through USA, France, Portugal, and Hawaii.

Westport has a thriving surfing community, underpinned by the local club Buller Boardriders, who are all eager to bring the event to town.

“It’s been 25 years since the Nationals were held at Westport and we look forward to welcoming everybody back,” said Steve Lee, President of Buller Boardriders.

“Everybody is excited to host the event and have the best surfing in the country take place on our waves.

“The event in early January often provides great conditions and we have plenty of waves for everyone to explore.”

South Island Surfing Association President, Tania Huria, highlighted the opportunity to host the event in the South Island again.

“We are always excited to have the event down here and we want to get behind Buller Boardriders as much as possible. It’s great for the community,” she said.

“Westport is a great part of Aotearoa and it will be fantastic bring the surfing community into the region after some particularly tough times with recent flooding and the lack of international tourists with the border closed.

“West Coast hospitality truly rules.”

Gisborne Boardriders will defend the club title, which will be hotly contested by several leading clubs from Raglan, Auckland, Mount Maunganui, Christchurch, Dunedin and the hometown Buller Boardriders. Also up for grabs at the Championships is the Peter Byers Overall Performance of the Event Award.

Organisers expect to receive more than 250 entries for the event. A total of 29 divisions will be contested including the premier Open Men and Women, as well as additional divisions comprising age groups from under 14 boys and girls through to over 60s for males and females and longboard, stand up paddleboard, bodyboard and kneeboard disciplines.

IN ACTION: Saffi Vette of Gisborne catches a wave during the National Surfing Championships at Piha Beach this year. She, Finn Vette, Ricardo Christie and Daniel Procter will fly the flag for Gisborne in Westport next year. NZ Surfing Magazine picture