The Nationals 2017 Done and Dusted / by craig levers

The 2017 Nationals are done and dusted with a 30 year old record finally broken....or is it? 

Records inherently are made to be broken. For the surfers following the record makers they become goals, goals to better. From 1966 to 1970 Takapuna's Wayne Parkes dominated the NZ surfing scene winning 5 consecutive Open National Titles. In the mid '80's Christchurch's Iain 'Ratso' Buchanan matched Parksey's domination with 5 Open Titles. Maz Quinn has long chased the record with 4 Open Titles, but the magic 5 has thus far eluded him [I write thus far, because I don't want to believe Mazzy can stay retired.] 

Billy on his way to breaking records

In 2016 Raglan's Billy Stairmand matched the magic 5, and this year, yesterday he went one better claiming his 6th Open Title. It's taken 30 years for it to happen, but I suspect Ratso and Parksey could be chortling to themselves in private "yeah Billy, but you didn't get them consecutively."  The 2017 Title for Billy means 4 on the trot, he needs to win 2018 to match Parkey's and Ratso's 5 in a row.

Of course this is verging on quibbling and the stuff of Tall Poppies. The fact remains that over the last 8 years Billy has dominated the Nationals, he's been in the final bracket every time with Jay Quinn, Maz's younger brother and a 3x Open Champ himself, being Billy's [and Maz's] spoiler. It's fricken great stuff; high drama on the high seas! 

Ratso was on the beach to watch the final yesterday, he was one of the first to congratulate Billy as he was washed in after the last heat of the day. 'Nah, I'm not sad at all, I'm totally stoked for Billy, it's an awesome achievement. He totally showed his world class on that opening wave and the 9.53 he got for it' states Ratso. And whom more qualified to identify Billy's world class performance, Ratso has been the WSL's Championship Tour priority judge for 3 years and has been the WSL Europe Regional Head Judge since 2005.

I'm biased, unashamedly so, for half of Billy's titles he's stayed at my home. The gorgeous Ange and I have the Lucky House, we have the title wins to prove it. Billy's other titles were won in Gizzy and Dunedin. We love opening up the house to friends for the Nats, our little 2 beddy bulging at the seams for the week. The record year was 2004 with a revolving cast of 14... that was probably too many, but you know, you gotta find the limit right?

Bit of Supa-Glue and she'll be right mate! The Open Cup Trophy is a story in itself. The traditions around it, the things it has seen. For the record it takes 18 stubbies to fill it up, the tradition is that the Champ fills it and drinks about half then it's passed around to fellow competitors and friends as a way of sharing the victory. In 1998 Chrissy Malone won the title up at the Bluff, 90 Mile Beach. That night at Collards Tavern he did his duty filling the Cup and sharing it around. Chrissy then carefully stashed the Cup behind a speaker stack. The band came on, the mosh pit started, the speaker stack was pushed over pancaking the Cup. Chrissy paid for the Cup to be repaired, but it's never quite had the rigidity of its former self. Running repairs have become the  rule of thumb. It has self destructed a couple of times at presso's quite spectacularly. Here Billy 'welds' the handle on the day before it gets handed back to him. [When it did he was sure to grab it from the base]  

It has been a terrible week for waves but a great week of connecting and hanging out with the tribe. A weird week too. The Nats at MY beach and I'm not the contracted shooter? My already discounted rate to SNZ was undercut. I love the discipline of being on the sand shooting most heats, documenting new talent coming through, witnessing old rivals tough it out, the cut and chase of delivering pertinent daily material. And then I saw the weather forecast .... hmmm maybe not having to be beachside this whole week is a good thing. Turns out it was actually better being a free agent- this time anyway. The eyes were picked out of the few times that there was nearly good surf.

Here's some lateral images from the last half of the week that was- 

Wrong place at the wrong time! JC Susan definitely got a dud call on where to jump out, he kept his cool, while he got a rinsing of epic proportions he wasn't washed off the rocks.

Dan Kereopa's SUP Final didn't go well, but he still got a 2nd. His board was guillotined by an 8 foot double up out the back. He swam the 2 halves in, against the rip, but lost valuable time and energy. As he rightly commented later, it was lucky that it happened to him not someone else as he was confident in the situation

A couple of heats later Dune Kennings suffered a nose snap too. Reckon he got underscored on this wave because of the degree of difficulty 

Now there's a familiar free fall float, Dune's uncle Ben Kennings walking the talk. BK is of course the driving force behind SNZ, Conest Organiser, Director, Media Liaison Officer and general go to. He very literally is The Man. 

Keeping in the walking the talk theme, meet your SNZ president Chris Fougere battling it out in the Over 35 division final

Speaking of the plus 35ers and the Cup- here's Chrissy Malone clenching two more division wins; the Over 28's and 35's. Both off of his arch rival Jarrod Hancock

Mr J-Rod, 2nd in two divisions and denying us one [or two] of his legendary victory speeches ...but that is a story for another time

YES Marky Marc! Former T&C salesman, DJ and of course Stolen Girlfriends Club Co-founder finally got the monkey off his back and won. Marc Moore- your 2017 40+ Champ

The woman to beat, and she wasn't. Defending Open Champ Ella Williams dominated the field with her class act

Groms like Gabby Samson are right on Ella's tail

The Nats hold massive mana in NZ Surfing, a reason for that is the people that support the event, that have chosen to document the annual meeting of the tribe. New Brighton's Warren Hawke is a photographer who has been doing it since the 1970's... he attended his first Nationals in 1968. And here he is 2017 and loving it. Wazza was part of the crew at the Lucky House this week, he kept us enthralled with tales from the past and plans for the future. He sure ain't resting on his laurels. Waz is deeply involved in organising The Duke Festival Of Surfing... dunno what that is... click here  After contributing to Surf Mags for 5 decades, he's authored one book so far ; NZ Surf- Captured By A Surf Lens is a must have for any Kiwi Surfer. The link to that book is HERE  But it's just the start of this creative's output. 

Here's my not so Grom to Watch call from the week that was. Clearly carrying the family mantle for clinical heat surfing and savvy strategy Taylor Hutchison... just like his old boy Geoff. The young Raglan surfer made his way convincingly through the Open heats surfing confidently and shrewdly... watch out old boys- this grom is out for scalps. 

Loyalties are always torn during the Nats, and here's a big tear, my boy, my man Elliot Paerata Reid. The 20 year old stormed his way into the Open Final pretty much stamping his local authority on the comp with ultra high heat scores and combo's for fellow competitors...ahhhh I want my flatmate Billy to win....but how sick would it be if Elliot gets his first Open title at home, on the day of his 21st party...TORN, torn I tell ya. He played to go big or go home game opting to charge the huge outside Bar sets. The big gamble didn't pay off, instead he got lost at sea. In epic, and maybe foolish, sportsmanship EPR had bounced back even at the presso, he invited EVERYBODY to his 21st party. I bailed after the heart warming speeches and heart racing Haka, but from all accounts things got rightly messy.   

From The Galleries

This was a summer not that long ago, maaaaaan if only we had waves like this for the Nats last week. Click on the image to see it larger...and for buying options of course :)