Olympic Hopefuls Advance Through to Semifinals of National Championships

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New Zealand’s female athletes that are gunning for Olympic qualification have advanced out of the early rounds of the 2021 National Surfing Championships currently being held at Piha moving into the final eight.

The 2021 National Championships presented by The Trusts Community Foundation are being held at Piha Beach, Auckland from 10th – 16th January and today (Monday 11th January), participants endured a solid 1.5m swell with moderate southwest onshore winds throughout the day.

19-year-old Saffi Vette of Gisborne secured herself a win over Taranaki’s Paige Hareb in the first heat of the day, Hareb competing in her first National Championships in 14 years.  The two surfers advanced through to the semifinals but it was Vette that posted a 12.7 point heat total for the win.

“It was quite tricky but last night I went out on the exact same tide so I knew what it would be like today and that helped a lot and I was able to get a good start and intimidate the other girls with my early lead” said Vette who was ‘stoked’ to beat Hareb and ‘get under her skin a little bit’.

Vette along with her opponents now have four days preparation for the semifinals and finals.

“I will just surf a few times a day and cruise, not burn out too much leading into the finals.  Plus I want to watch my brother Finn surf his heats and enjoy Piha too” added Vette.

Both Vette and Hareb are in the New Zealand Olympic training squad along with Ella Williams (WGM) and defending champion Ava Henderson (Chch) who also advanced out of their heats today.

Henderson and Williams both left their run late in their heats with last second waves to push into the semifinals.  Williams surfed to a 10.9 point heat total with Henderson finishing on 8.75 points out of a possible 20.

“I was really stressing because they called out I was third and I needed a score.  I got that last wave but I wasn’t 100% sure what I needed so I came in and I thought I might not have made the heat” commented Henderson.

The semifinals are stacked but I will see how I go and between now and Saturday, I have some junior heats to work through as well” added Henderson.

In a shock loss, 2019 National Champion Aimee Brown (Grt Barrier) was eliminated from the event at the hands of Ariana Shewry (Tara) and Georgia Wederell (Mnt).

The Open Men’s Division was surfed through to the last 16 surfers with some upsets as well as more last minute wins including that of seven-time event champion Billy Stairmand (Rag).

Stairmand in his own words got ‘lost at sea’ surfing one scoring ride of 1.85 points out of a possible 10 in the first 17 minutes of his 20 minute heat.  However, Stairmand managed to pull out an event saving 180 second performance.

“I thought it kinda looked fun before my heat when I was checking but then I went out and didn’t get a wave for 17 minutes” said Stairmand.

“I had to pull out a ‘Gabriel Medina’ and do it in the last three minutes and luckily I got a long right and got a pretty good score then lucked into a little reform and got to do a couple of good tags.  I guess you only need two scores and it only takes three minutes to get them” said a somewhat relieved Stairmand who says he will take some notes form the performance and try to eliminate the mistakes in the next round.

Stairmand finished with an 11.5 point heat total in first equal with one of the local favourites in Shane Kraus.

Another of the Olympic hopefuls in Kehu Butler (Mnt) went wave-for-wave with Whitianga surfer Jay Piper – Healion, Butler eventually getting the nod with the highest heat score of the day 17.55 out of a possible 20 points to Piper – Healion’s 15.65.  Like Hareb, Butler is competing in his first National Championships in several years after being away from New Zealand competing internationally at this time of the year recently.

Impressive heat winners also included Daniel Farr (Tara), Taylor Hutchison (Rag), Jarred Hancox (Tara) and Sean Peggs (Tai).

Late in the day the junior women’s divisions were contested where Ava Henderson again looked dominant in the Under 16s and 18s surfing through to the semifinals.  Brie Bennett (Rag) looked good in her junior heat as did Anna Brock (Mnt) and local girls Leia Millar and Liv Haysom.

Day three will see the introduction of the senior men’s divisions ranging from Over 30s through to Over 60s, the legends of the sport in New Zealand.  The critical quarterfinals of the Open Men’s Division will also be contested as we hunt for the final eight surfers to compete on Saturday live on Sky Sport 9 and the Sky Sport Next YouTube channel.

Action will take place from 8am – 4pm daily with the primary venue being at the southern end of Piha Beach.

All divisions have a staggered start to the event as per below:

Day 3 – Addition of men’s senior age group divisions
Day 4 – Addition of longboard divisions
Day 5 – Addition of SUP divisions and bodyboard
Day 6 – Addition of kneeboard
Day 7 – All divisions*

*Finals for some divisions will be contested prior to Day 7.

Please see below for the results from Day Two of the 2021 National Surfing Championships pres by The Trusts Community Foundation held at Piha Beach Auckland today, Monday 11th January.

Open Women’s Division Round 1
Heat 1

Saffi Vette (Gis), 12.7, 1, Paige Hareb (Tara), 10.1, 2, Billie Scott (Whangarei), 3, 3, Natasha Gouldsbury (Tara), 2.6, 4
Heat 2
Ava Henderson (Chch), 8.75, 1, Anna Brock (Mnt), 8.1, 2, Liv Haysom (Piha), 4.3, 3
Heat 3
Ariana Shewry (Oakura), 9.1, 1, Georgia Wederell (Mnt), 7.85, 2, Aimee Brown (GB), 7.75, 3, Renee Ruddell (Whngrei), 2.2, 4
Heat 4
Ella Williams (Whmata), 10.9, 1, Gabrielle Paul (Piha), 8.05, 2, Asia Braithwaite (Gis), 6.85, 3, Brie Bennett (Rag), 5.35, 4

Open Men’s Division Round 2
Heat 1

Kehu Butler (Mnt), 17.55, 1, Jay Piper – Healion (Whiti), 15.65, 2, Tom Butland (Tara), 6.8, 3, Dawson Tamati (Tara), 3.95, 4
Heat 2
Reuben Woods (Mnt), 10.65, 1, Dune Kennings (Piha), 9.8, 2, Levi Stewart (Waihi Bch), 9.15, 3, Waretini Wano (Piha), 7.85, 4
Heat 3
Jarred Hancox (Tara), 13.5, 1, Conor McLennan (Chch), 9.65, 2, Navryn Malone (Rag), 9.45, 3, Patrick Braithwaite (Gis), 8.65, 4
Heat 4
Billy Stairmand (Rag), 11.5, 1, Shane Kraus (Piha), 11.5, 2, Josef Jungwirth (Rag), 10.35, 3, Jackson Peak (Auck), 4.85, 4
Heat 5
Taylor Hutchison (Rag), 12.9, 1, Luis Southerwood, 10.4, 2, Jack McLeod (Dun), 3.6, 3, Jack Lee (Whaka), 2.5, 4
Heat 6
Zen Wallis (Piha), 12.15, 1, Thomas Carter (Waihi Bch), 8.4, 2, Finn Vette (Gis), 7.75, 3, Jeremy Grainger (Tara), 5.65, 4
Heat 7
Daniel Farr (Tara), 13.26, 1, Callum Chuter (Mnt), 10.45, 2, Kora Cooper (Rag), 5.8, 3, Zac Curle (Waihi Beach), 5.2, 4
Heat 8
Sean Peggs (Tairua), 12.5, 1, Jayden Willoughby (Rag), 9.8, 2, Tom Robinson (Whngrei), 8.3, 3, Caleb Cutmore (Ham), 5.1, 4

Under 18 Girls Division Round 1
Heat 1

Liv Haysom (Piha), 10.5, 1, Natasha Gouldsbury (Levin), 9.25, 2, Sophia Brock (Mnt), 5.75, 3, Alice Westerkamp (Auck), 5.5, 4
Heat 2
Brie Bennett (Rag), 12.9, 1, Asia Braithwaite (Gis), 8.5, 2, Chloe Groube (Pau), 5, 3, Amilie Wink (Chch), 3, 4
Heat 3
Ava Henderson (Chch), 11.55, 1, Anna Brock (Mnt), 10, 2, Ariana Shewry (Tara), 6.8, 3, Pia Rogers (WGM), 4.28, 4

Under 16 Girls Division Round 1
Heat 1

Leia Millar (Piha), 12.2, 1, Amelie Wink (Chch), 4.3, 2, Indi-Lee Ruddell (Whngrei), 4.15, 3, Talia Da Silva (Whngrei), 3.45, 4
Heat 2
Ava Henderson (Chch), 15.1, 1, Maya Mateja (Rag), 8.15, 2, Isabella Milne (WGM), 2.3, 3,
Heat 3
Anna Brock (Mnt), 10.25, 1, Chloe Groube (Pau), 8.75, 2, Pia Rogers (WGM), 8.5, 3
Heat 4
Asia Braithwaite (Gis), 9.25, 1, Sophia Brock (Mnt), 6.3, 2, Amanda Gouldsbury (Tara), 2.85, 3

The National Surfing Championships mark the first of several domestic events this season which will climax with a finale for the top 16 males and 8 females across the Open Men and Women’s Divisions.

2021 marks the thirteenth time the National Championships has been held at Piha with the consistent waves of Auckland’s West Coast making the venue a good location for the seven-day event.

The longest running surfing event in New Zealand has a 57-year history and encompasses 29 divisions spread across all disciplines and age groups making for a largely inclusive event, filled with high level surfing as well as good times in and out of the water.  Over 320 entries have been received for the event.

Further Information
For further information on the 2021 National Surfing Championships please contact Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email benkennings@surfingnz.co.nz.

Imagery
High resolution action images of the surfing will be available to media free of charge upon request.

Live Scoring
Live scoring of the event will be on www.compusurf.com.au.

Broadcast
The final day of the event will be broadcast live on Sky Sport Channel 9.  The event will also be webcast live on Sky Sport Next.

Event Hotline
The Surfing New Zealand event hotline is 0211134506.  This will be updated daily at approximately 7am with venue, divisions contested and conditions.

Social Media
Keep up with all the action by following @surfingnz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Use the hashtag #Nats2021 to follow the story.

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