Gisborne has been crowned the 2019 New Zealand Representative Challenge (NZRC) Champions after an impressive 20 point victory at Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) first national event of 2019 held at Midway Beach in Gisborne.
The annual NZRC event sees SLSNZ regions go head-to-head for regional honours, with each team typically made up of 19-20 athletes covering a variety of surf lifesaving disciplines including swim, paddle, sprint, canoes and Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRB).
With over 100 competitors, it was going to be “hard to win” but the locals used their knowledge about Midway Beach to their advantage to claim the win ahead of Taranaki in second and Bay of Plenty in third.
Gisborne team coach Dion Williams said they’re “incredibly proud” to get the win, especially considering “a large chunk of our team are juniors so don’t have a huge amount of experience.”
However, he says that the way the Gisborne clubs come together, train together and support each other has made a real difference in taking this regional win and putting Gisborne on the surf lifesaving map.
“There is a really good vibe here in Gisborne as all three of our clubs train together and I think we’ve just fed off that. We did a couple of baton changes and practiced here and there, but we’ve really benefited from all being so close I think,” he said.
“It was really the consistent team effort that got us through. Our team captains Matt Scott and Olivia Corrin really led the way with their performances, but every single person on the team did exceptionally well. It wasn’t just the race wins that got us this result, it was everyone pushing for that extra 1% that got us this title,” he added.
Second-placed getters, Taranaki, edged out reigning champions Bay of Plenty by only five points showing how close a lot of the racing was today.
One of the toughest events on the schedule was the Oceanman and Oceanwoman events, which were won by Matthew Scott (Gisborne) and Claudia Kelly (Taranaki) respectively, with the latter backing up her recent youth Ironwoman win at the Lifesaving World Championships (LWC) in Adelaide with the Junior Black Fins.
On the back of her Oceanwoman win, Kelly said “it was my first national open title so it was really exciting for me, especially considering how good the competition was.”
Although she says her favourite race of the NZRC was the board rescue with team-mate Lucy North. “The board rescue was really fun today with the surf making it quite interesting, and it was a really close finish at the end, so that was really cool,” she said.
“It was also really exciting for us [Taranaki] to finish second. We had such a young team so it was a really awesome achievement for us,” Kelly added.
Kelly’s fellow Taranaki team-mate, Jamie Gedye, took gold in both the Beach Sprint and Beach Flags events ahead of local favourite Briana Irving, who took gold at the same youth events at LWC. Black Fin, Murdoch Finch representing Bay of Plenty, managed to grab gold in the same two events in the male division, ahead of Wesley Akeripa (Hawkes Bay) in second and Junior Black Fin Aidan Smith (Coromandel) in third at the same events.
Taranaki and Gisborne also dominated the IRB races, by both claiming a medal in every race which included the IRB Teams Rescue, IRB Single Rescue and IRB Assembly Rescue. Hawkes Bay also claimed second in the men’s IRB Assembly while the women’s Coromandel crew claimed third in the same women’s race.
NZRC Event Manager, Matt Warren, said it was the perfect combination of weather, surf conditions and rivalry for this event which resulted in some “great racing.”
“We couldn’t have asked for a better day today. The racing was fierce and every single point was hard fought for, which is reflected in the results.”
Mr Warren also wanted to extend his congratulations to the winning team who he knew “put in a huge amount of hard work to claim this trophy,” and to the athletes “who gave it all for their region and their team mates out there today.”
“We also want to thank everyone in Gisborne, including our partners Tairāwhiti-Gisborne and Eastland Community Trust, for welcoming our event to your shores.”
“The best thing for us is that Tairāwhiti means ‘the coast upon which the sun shines across the water’, and this weekend it certainly did that. Everything was perfect out in the surf today,” Mr Warren added.
The next national sport event in SLSNZ’s sport calendar is the New Zealand Representative Surf Boat Challenge, held as part of the New Zealand Surf Boat Series on 9-10 February at Waihi Beach in Coromandel.
Photo by Keepa Digital.
Alana McIsaac, Media & Communications Manager
Phone 027 515 7157