Quinn, Christie spearheading local challenge in national champs

LOCALS TO RULE: Teenager Saffi Vette is seeking to add to her collection. She won two age groups at the 2017 nationals. Picture by Liam Clayton
Forty-one-year-old Maz Quinn is bidding for a fifth open men’s title at the New Zealand surfing championships that start in Gisborne tomorrow. Picture by Cory Scott

GISBORNE surfing’s elite will be out in force to contest the national championships in home waters from tomorrow.

Two former Championship Tour surfers — four-time national champion Maz Quinn and 2005 titleholder and multiple age-group winner Ricardo Christie — will compete in the open men’s division.

Also expected to be in the mix is Bobby Hansen, one of the best surfers yet to win the open men’s title.

Of the visiting contingent, Raglan’s Billy Stairmand will be seeking a record-equalling fifth consecutive open men’s title, and seventh overall.

With Quinn and Christie in the field, Stairmand is all too aware of how challenging it is going to be.

“Both of them are my idols. I’ve always looked up to their surfing and who they are as people,” he told The New Zealand Herald earlier this week.

Quinn, who won the title in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2006, retired from regular competition last year but said then that he might take part in the odd event.

The national championships at his home breaks proved too good an opportunity to miss.

“I guess when you first hang up the boots you miss it,” he said.

“But that competitive fire hasn’t gone anywhere. When I found out the national champs were going to be in Gisborne this year, it was an easy decision to compete again.”

He is also entered in the over-40 men’s division.

The last time a Gisborne surfer won the open men’s crown was in 2013, when Maz Quinn’s younger brother Jay won his third title.

Christie and Jay Quinn are the only Gisborne surfers to have won all four male divisions up to and including open men, the others being under-14, u16 and u18.

The women’s open was last won by a local surfer in 2011, when Gisborne-Mahia’s Airini Mason won the title.

In the age-group ranks, Gisborne’s John Gisby will look to record his 37th national title.

His first was in Gisborne, in 1984, and this year he will contest the over-60 division.

Gisborne the host

Gisborne has hosted the nationals more often than any other centre. This will be the city’s 16th time as host since the nationals’ inception at Mt Maunganui in 1963. Three of those occasions were co-hostings, twice with Piha and once with New Plymouth.

A feature of the 2018 nationals is the increase in the number of women’s divisions to match those available to men.

In the past, entry at the nationals for female competitors was restricted to open women and the junior age groups, and men were also able to enter senior master, grandmaster and veteran age groups.

Last year, Gisborne Boardriders Club moved to offer female surfers equal divisions in all local events, and lobbied Surfing New Zealand to do the same for its events.

Gisborne has strong representation in the women’s divisions, with 16-year-old Saffi Vette a contender in both junior and open contests. She won the under-18 and u16 girls’ titles last year.

Abi Daunton is one to watch in open women’s surfing and longboarding. She is young, confident and talented.

Stella Smith won the open women’s stand-up paddleboard last year, thereby qualifying for the New Zealand team for the world junior championships, and is likely to be favoured to repeat that effort.

Gisborne’s Sean Hovell will be out to make the final again in the open men’s stand-up paddleboard.

Finn Vette has local knowledge to back up his skill in the under-14 boys’ division, and Manawa Ruru, 15, could go deep into the contest in long and shortboard events.

Another Gisborne 15-year-old, Finn Johnson, has accumulated a lot of experience and could easily produce an exceptional result.

In the open longboard, Sam Johnson, two-time New Zealand open champion Daniel Procter and 2003 open champion Kelly Ryan all have the potential to reach the final and have a shot at the title.

With a strong local entry for the nationals, Gisborne Boardriders Club looks a contender for the club title won by Raglan’s Point Boardriders at the last national champs.

GISBORNE surfing’s elite will be out in force to contest the national championships in home waters from tomorrow.

Two former Championship Tour surfers — four-time national champion Maz Quinn and 2005 titleholder and multiple age-group winner Ricardo Christie — will compete in the open men’s division.

Also expected to be in the mix is Bobby Hansen, one of the best surfers yet to win the open men’s title.

Of the visiting contingent, Raglan’s Billy Stairmand will be seeking a record-equalling fifth consecutive open men’s title, and seventh overall.

With Quinn and Christie in the field, Stairmand is all too aware of how challenging it is going to be.

“Both of them are my idols. I’ve always looked up to their surfing and who they are as people,” he told The New Zealand Herald earlier this week.

Quinn, who won the title in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2006, retired from regular competition last year but said then that he might take part in the odd event.

The national championships at his home breaks proved too good an opportunity to miss.

“I guess when you first hang up the boots you miss it,” he said.

“But that competitive fire hasn’t gone anywhere. When I found out the national champs were going to be in Gisborne this year, it was an easy decision to compete again.”

He is also entered in the over-40 men’s division.

The last time a Gisborne surfer won the open men’s crown was in 2013, when Maz Quinn’s younger brother Jay won his third title.

Christie and Jay Quinn are the only Gisborne surfers to have won all four male divisions up to and including open men, the others being under-14, u16 and u18.

The women’s open was last won by a local surfer in 2011, when Gisborne-Mahia’s Airini Mason won the title.

In the age-group ranks, Gisborne’s John Gisby will look to record his 37th national title.

His first was in Gisborne, in 1984, and this year he will contest the over-60 division.

Gisborne the host

Gisborne has hosted the nationals more often than any other centre. This will be the city’s 16th time as host since the nationals’ inception at Mt Maunganui in 1963. Three of those occasions were co-hostings, twice with Piha and once with New Plymouth.

A feature of the 2018 nationals is the increase in the number of women’s divisions to match those available to men.

In the past, entry at the nationals for female competitors was restricted to open women and the junior age groups, and men were also able to enter senior master, grandmaster and veteran age groups.

Last year, Gisborne Boardriders Club moved to offer female surfers equal divisions in all local events, and lobbied Surfing New Zealand to do the same for its events.

Gisborne has strong representation in the women’s divisions, with 16-year-old Saffi Vette a contender in both junior and open contests. She won the under-18 and u16 girls’ titles last year.

Abi Daunton is one to watch in open women’s surfing and longboarding. She is young, confident and talented.

Stella Smith won the open women’s stand-up paddleboard last year, thereby qualifying for the New Zealand team for the world junior championships, and is likely to be favoured to repeat that effort.

Gisborne’s Sean Hovell will be out to make the final again in the open men’s stand-up paddleboard.

Finn Vette has local knowledge to back up his skill in the under-14 boys’ division, and Manawa Ruru, 15, could go deep into the contest in long and shortboard events.

Another Gisborne 15-year-old, Finn Johnson, has accumulated a lot of experience and could easily produce an exceptional result.

In the open longboard, Sam Johnson, two-time New Zealand open champion Daniel Procter and 2003 open champion Kelly Ryan all have the potential to reach the final and have a shot at the title.

With a strong local entry for the nationals, Gisborne Boardriders Club looks a contender for the club title won by Raglan’s Point Boardriders at the last national champs.

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