Max Beattie capped a magnificent summer by winning the open ironman title at the State New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships in Mount Maunganui today.
The 21-year-old Omanu club member started his season in November by helping New Zealand win the Rescue 2012 world title in Adelaide, which included finishing second to the great Shannon Eckstein in the ironman.
Today, he backed up that brilliance by successfully defending the national title he won for the first time in Gisborne last year.
"The second one is definitely sweeter," Beattie said. "There was a lot of talk that I wouldn't be able to do it again because the race went so perfectly for me last year and I had a big target on my back this year but today I just went out and took the bull by the horns. You can fluke one win but you can't fluke a second."
Beattie finished ahead of Mount Maunganui pair George Haynes and Andrew Newton, opening a lead on the opening board leg and never relinquishing it. While Omanu stirred emotions on the beach by importing three Australian competitors, Gold Coast-based Beattie used a young clubmate as motivation.
"My inspiration came from Ben Cochrane winning in the under-19s - he's 16-years-old and beat guys three years older. He's an absolute freak and if the club keeps producing kids like him, we've got a pretty bright future."
Haynes, a Great Britain team member who has been training and patrolling in Mount Maunganui all summer, won the surf race title from Midway's Mike Janes and seven-time winner Glenn Anderson (New Plymouth Old Boys) third, while Haynes and Newton also anchored the host club's open men's taplin-winning team as their club strolled to overall honors.
Mount Maunganui collected the Alan Gardner Trophy for the fourth time in seven years, finishing on 136 points, 14 clear of Papamoa, with Red Beach (69), Omanu (53) and Mairangi Bay (51) rounding out the top-five.
Mount didn't have things all their own way, however. Rising kayaker Caitlin Ryan (Red Beach) upstaged Mount's Olympic champion Lisa Carrington in the open women's ski final, claiming her second consecutive win in the event. Carrington was second and Fitzroy's Rebecca Cole was third, with Ryan wisely avoiding a 2.5m wave that came through the field.
"A bomb came through as we were coming in and I pulled off it - I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it," the 21-year-old, who started competitive kayaking five months ago, explained. "I went out earlier in the morning and tried to pull down a bomb to see if I could hold it and didn't so I knew I had to play it safe."
The men's ski race saw an act of outstanding sportsmanship, as a huge field of top paddlers battled another rogue set that came through the field.
Amidst the carnage, young Midway star Cory Taylor emerged unscathed to lead the field home; however, on landing on the beach, he went straight to an official to disqualify himself after hitting a marker can and going inside it.
That elevated Mairangi Bay's Travis Mitchell to the win, his third after collecting the 2006 and 2007 crowns. Hamish Beattie (Ocean Beach Kiwi) was second, followed by London Olympian Darryl Fitzgerald (Waikanae).
Mitchell also picked up silver in the open mixed double ski with Danielle McKenzie, finishing just behind winners Scott Bicknell and Anne Cairns (Ocean Beach Kiwi).
While the swell dropped as the day went on, the action didn't abate. One of Omanu's Aussie imports Alicia Bain grabbed the open ironwoman title, with the 19-year-old holding off another teenager, Papamoa's Natalie Peat.
Minutes earlier, Peat had taken out the under-19 title and her second-placing in the open confirmed her place as New Zealand's best, coming through the field in the final swim leg but Bain's precision in the tricky waves proved the difference.
"The board is my best leg so I was hoping to do really well in that and the swell worked in my favor," Bain said. "I was just coming over to have a good time and have a bit of a race because my boyfriend (Dan Hooker) is in the club. The teams were really our main focus and then the individual titles are definitely a bonus."
Papamoa sprinter Kodi Harman showed no sign of the stress fracture that sidelined him for the best part of five months, again winning the under-19 and open double against the fastest men on the sand. Another teenager, New Plymouth Old Boys 17-year-old Scott Murfitt, was second in the open, with Waimairi's Ben Ryan third.
The surf boat arena produced plenty of spills, 2km further down the coast, but once again the Piha club dominated proceedings. Piha's open men's boat crew, swept by Mark Bourneville, grabbed the short-course and long-course double for the third year in a row, the first time that feat has been achieved. Piha also added the under-23 and under-19 men's titles for good measure.
Mount Maunganui's women caused the biggest upset, edging Whangamata on the line in their final, giving Stephanie Clarke, Charlotte Jones, Ashlea Stanford, Rachel Laird and sweep Clayton Kellett the title.
But the Mount Maunganui women's beach relay team, chasing an unprecedented 10th successive win, were dethroned in part by remarkable 15-year-old Fitzroy sprinter Zoe Hobbs, who ran the final leg and chased down Mount Maunganui's Arna Wright and Mairangi Bay's Chanel Hickman.