Article by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
The cream of New Zealand surf lifesaving talent is descending on Tauranga over the next two weeks for two of the biggest carnivals on the local calendar.
The inaugural Mount Monster 25 kilometre endurance race will kick off on Saturday, sponsored by Steve Bird Wines and Vineyards. It will be followed eight days later by the annual New World Omanu Classic, featuring the Ian Porteous long distance ironman event.
And the surf stars are certainly aligning, with New Zealand ironman champion Max Beattie, Australian Jackson Maynard, Gisborne prodigy Cory Taylor and four-time Olympian Steven Ferguson joining an array of top local athletes.
Billed as the Kiwi version of the iconic Coolangatta Gold, the Mount Monster, run by the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and presented by Steve Bird Winery and Vineyards, is a multi-discipline event expected to take more than two hours. It boasts $7000 in cash prizes, as well as a number of sponsored prizes.
The legs include a five kilometre beach run, a spectacular swim leg which includes a jump off Moturiki Island's blowhole, a 12 kilometre ski leg and a six kilometre board paddle. The unique nature of the course has proved to be a popular attraction, with more than 50 individuals and a large number of teams signing up.
"We've had a huge response to this event and not just the surf lifesaving fraternity," MMLS chairman Paul Treanor said. "We've had feedback from a number of triathletes, standup paddle-boarders and multisport athletes who would love to be a part of it in future and that's something we'll certainly discuss leading into next year, while the support from local businesses has been brilliant. Getting more than 120 athletes competing in this inaugural race is massive though and for now, we're just focused on making sure they have an outstanding day."
Among the top local contenders are Mount's own Andrew Newton, who snatched a dramatic win in the ironman at last week's Whangamata Classic, and clubmates Sam Shergold and Hamish Treanor. The latter pair took part in October's Coolangatta Gold, with Treanor finishing 17th in the under-19 division over 33 kilometre and Shergold 25th in the 43 kilometre open race against some of the best ironmen on the planet.
The women's field includes New Zealand team members Danielle McKenzie, Jess Miller and Katie Wilson. The race is for all ages, with Omanu 60-year-old Ian Glover lining up, alongside 16-year-old clubmates Josh Jarvis and Ben Elisara.
The concept of the race has been developed by Mount club coach John Bryant, who has used it as a training tool for years. Bryant is excited to see it formalised into a proper race, especially with the signature blowhole jump included.
"The blowhole jump isn't just a test of nerves, it's a valuable training tool for our lifeguards," Bryant said. "We've had a number of rescues around the rocks at the end of Moturiki Island over the years and our lifeguards need to know how to safely negotiate entering and exiting the water. It's also a whole lot of fun - once you've conquered your fear - and it gives the Mount Monster race an extra special piece of local flavor."
Many of the athletes, including Beattie, Taylor and the Mount contingent, will back up at the New World Omanu Classic, with Beattie looking to defend his ironman title.