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Hard-fought surf lifesaving under way

The Ralph Morse Shield race for Gisborne surf lifesaving supremacy looks set to be one of the hardest fought for years.

Waikanae and Midway were neck and neck on points after the first twilight carnival last night.

Twenty titles were decided in choppy surf at Waikanae. Kaiaponi Farms Waikanae won 12 of them and Dawson Building Midway, eight.

With the minor placings included from last night, Waikanae led by only about 20 points.

Midway won five of the eight canoe titles and Waikanae, three. Then Waikanae won three of the double-ski titles and Midway, two.

A highlight of the double-ski races was the win by Midway's Andy Kinsella and Will Pittar in the open men's event. They beat the strong Waikanae combination of Quaid Thompson and Alex Bristow.

In the two-kilometre beach runs, Waikanae athletes won six of the eight age groupings and Midway, the other two.

Waikanae's Lily Heuser took out both the open and under-17 women's events.

“It was really exciting to get everyone back on the beach competing last night,” Surf Life Saving New Zealand eastern region sport manager Sonia Keepa said.

“There was a great atmosphere and it was so good to see everyone having fun.”

Keepa said the standard of competition was high.

“All credit to the club coaches for keeping the kids involved.”

Waikanae head coach Cory Hutchings said it was a good turnout from Waikanae and Midway last night.

“Each club had about 30 members competing and you could see that it meant something to the kids, which was really important.

“The importance of that shield is something we want to bring back, which in turn is good for the region.”

Waikanae have won the Ralph Morse Shield for the past six seasons but Hutchings expects this weekend will be an “up-and-down” race for the title.

“Midway have a huge number of young up-and-coming competitors, while we have quite a few established competitors who are also still on the rise,” he said.

“It's a really nice mix and over the weekend I expect the contest to ebb and flow.

“Also the surf conditions are looking quite challenging. I think Mother Nature may play a bit of a part.

“I'm proud of the effort last night, and we've just got to keep going.”

Midway head coach Matt Sutton said Waikanae had more members and could field a lot more teams.

“But we will be putting our best foot forward, that's for sure.

“I'm certainly hopeful that we can make it as hard as we can for Waikanae to win.

“I was absolutely happy with last nights' performance. We had a lot of our youngsters step up and do things they wouldn't normally do, and last night they were awesome.”

Riversun Wainui did not compete last night. Head coach Dion Williams said they would have only a small number of competitors involved this weekend.

“This is a quiet year for Wainui, with only a tiny senior squad, and no one going to the nationals at this stage,” he said.

“It is disappointing but it's just one of those rebuilding cycles clubs go through.

“We have a massive number of under-14 athletes training, but the senior ranks are limited to the likes of Ava Smith, Jonty Evans and Hannah King, and only a few others.

“But they'll all be doing their best this weekend.”

The local championships continue today. Another twilight schedule will feature water events and beach races on the new sand track at Midway.

The championships conclude with a full day of competition tomorrow.

HAVIN’ FUN: The Gisborne surf life saving championships started last night at Waikanae and despite the rough conditions the athletes had a ball, as these shots illustrate. Christy and Kenda Tate (above) displayed winning form, finishing first in the open double ski event while (see the following picture in this gallery) Midway’s Dylan Bronlund, Jacob Corrin, Jack Lepper and Angus Blair took out the U19 short course canoe. Pictures by Paul Rickard
Midway’s Dylan Bronlund, Jacob Corrin, Jack Lepper and Angus Blair took out the U19 short course canoe.