Final fling for kiwi Surf LifeguardsWednesday, 28 March 2012
Surf lifesaving's final farewell to summer will be enacted on both sides of the Tasman this week.
The BP Surf Rescue New Zealand championships will start at Dunedin's Warrington Beach on Friday, with 307 competitors from 27 clubs donning wetsuits and braving the southern climes for three days of racing.
Slightly warmer will be more than 100 New Zealanders who will be competing at the Australian surf lifesaving championships at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Coast, a seven-day carnival featuring more than 7000 athletes.
South Island crews will be trying to translate big numbers into medals at the IRB season-ender, with Dunedin clubs Brighton, Kaka Point, St Kilda and St Clair contributing 65 athletes between them and another seven clubs coming down from Christchurch.
St Clair sisters Carla and Stephanie Laughton will be favourites in the women's division, having dominated the recent South Island championships, although North Island crews will be tough to knock off in the other three divisions.
Leading the charge are defending national premier champions Andrew Cronin and James Morwood from East End. The strong Taranaki club has the biggest contingent heading south this weekend, with 32 competitors, and Cronin and Morwood are the reigning world champions in the craft.
Mount Maunganui twins Kirby and Chad Wheeler will also be looking to continue their dominance in the under-21 division as racing gets underway at midday on Friday.
Across the ditch, sprinters Paul Cracroft-Wilson, Kodi Harman and Chanel Hickman will be among those chasing serious Aussie gold this week. Cracroft-Wilson recently won his fifth New Zealand beach flags title and will be trying to upstage prolific eight-time Australian champion Simon Harris, who has retired from retirement. Cracroft-Wilson beat Harris in the 2007 final.
Hickman will resume her rivalry with Australian Melissa Howard, while Harman - fresh from running 10.56secs over 100m at the New Zealand track and field championships - will be looking to repeat his success in Australia last year when he won the under-17 flags title.
The national champion Piha men's and Mairangi Bay women's boat crews will also compete, as will teams from Mount Maunganui, Midway, Omanu, Papamoa, Red Beach and New Plymouth Old Boys.