It’s a curious quirk of fate but Whangamata’s 42-strong band of junior surf lifesaving talent head into their home beach as defending Eastern Region champions this weekend.
The two-day Eastern Regional junior championships will draw nearly 500 under-14 athletes from 24 clubs throughout the North Island, with an ideal 1m swell and fine weather forecast.
That’s in stark contrast to the 4m swells which hammered the east coast of New Zealand last weekend, or the storm swell that hit Ohope last year and caused the event’s abandonment before it had even begun.
What it does mean is that Whangamata’s 17-point win over Omanu in 2017 at nearby Waihi Beach was the last time the championships were held, a point not lost on Whangamata coach Tom Lowe.
“I guess that makes us defending champs?” he laughed. “The kids are stoked to have a crack at racing on their home beach and we’re forward to an awesome weekend - it’s going to be great hosting our friends from all the other clubs.”
Lowe said Sunday and Monday’s giant swell had littered the pristine Coromandel beach with seaweed and debris but local lifeguards report it has cleaned up substantially as the swell dropped this week.
Whangamata’s contingent is the third-biggest, with Mount Maunganui sending up 72 athletes, aged 7-14, and Omanu contributing 63. Waihi Beach and Papamoa have also cracked 40 this year, while Gisborne clubs Midway, Waikanae and Wainui have nearly 60 athletes spread between them. There’s also a decent representation from Northern Region clubs like Mairangi Bay, Piha, Muriwai and Red Beach, plus a sprinkling from Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki.
The Eastern Regional junior champs is the last big hit-out before next month’s Oceans ’19 national under-14 titles in Mount Maunganui.
Caption: The cream of young surf lifesaving talent will be competing in Whangamata over the weekend in the Eastern Regional junior championships. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media.