He's a three-time national board race champion and a handy ski paddler but not even Andrew Newton would consider himself a champion swimmer. It's amazing what a bit of grit and resolve can do, however.
The Mount Maunganui surf lifesaver picked up the biggest ironman win of his career yesterday today, scooping an upset win in the final of the Sonic Surf Race series on his home beach and pocketing $1000 for his troubles.
After smashing the opening board leg with eight of the top ironmen in the country, Newton extended his lead in the ski leg, then had to hold on grimly in the final swim leg as pressure came from his Mount clubmates Perry Farrell and George Haynes.
"It was quite handy having the craft go first and I just tried to hold on for dear life in the swim and get a wave," Newton explained. "I was hoping to pull something but it didn't quite come and I missed a couple of waves. I could see someone coming up behind me so I just dug it in and made it hurt."
Omanu 16-year-old Ben Cochrane was fourth, while another Mount athlete, 18-year-old Hamish Treanor, finished a valiant fifth.
The women's final was taken out as expected by Papamoa's Natalie Peat, although not in the manner which most spectators expected.
Peat led early in the swim but the chasing pack caught a wave and hauled her in. Mount Maunganui's Katie Wilson opened up a big lead on the ski leg but then lost her ski coming in on a big set wave.
Mairangi Bay's Danielle McKenzie then took the initiative in the final board leg but ran out of waves on the way home. Peat and Piha's Kirsty Wannan chased her down, with Peat's slick dismount on the beach giving her the edge in a sprint finish.
"I'm not really renowned for my sprint finishes so it was good to pull that one of the bag," 18-year-old Peat said. "I was leading in the swim and the whole pack came through so I was stoked to get the wave on the board and get back up to the front pack."
The final was the culmination of the four-round Sonic series, which incorporated a quartet of the biggest regional carnivals around the country. More than 800 junior athletes packed the stands during the final, which was held during the Oceans 13 New Zealand under-14 championships.
Women: Natalie Peat (Papamoa) 1, Kirsty Wannan (Piha) 2, Danielle McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 3, Katie Wilson (Mount Maunganui) 4, Kathryn Stewart (Papamoa) 5, Ashley Cochrane (Omanu) 6, Kelsey Moffatt (Lyall Bay) 7.