Daniel Kereopa (Tainui) has reclaimed the Auahi Kore Maori Titles at his home break of Raglan today (Sunday). In messy 1.0m waves at Manu Bay, New Zealand, Kereopa showed just how well he knows the break with a come from behind win in the last 30 second of the Billabong Open Men’s division final. Kereopa has not held the title since 2003 when he last won the event which was held in the Taranaki region. Today his determination was evident in the finals and he wanted redemption for his earlier second place finish in the longboard division.

Kereopa worked his magic on the first wave of the final to post a 7.75. The signs were ominous for the remaining three competitors however they did not appear too concerned and went about their work while Kereopa waited patiently for another good ride. Tim O’Connor (Waikato) surfed brilliantly and moved himself into a share of the lead with Kereopa but his selection of smaller waves limited his scoring potential. Defending champion Leon Santorik (Ngati Tama) and previous title holder Motu Mataa (Te Atiawa) waited for the bigger but more infrequent waves to build their score line up. At the final hooter it was Santorik’s last two rides in the dying stages of the final that pushed him into the lead ahead of Kereopa and O’Connor but the lead was short lived. Kereopa then posted a 5.80 on his last wave finishing on the rocks as the heat was counted down to completion.

“I got that first good wave so I knew I could be patient and wait for the best waves" commented Kereopa who went on to add “I knew I only needed a small score but when I saw Leon get those last two waves I started to get worried. I could tell my last wave was going to stick close to the rocks and as I took off I knew it had the potential to get me the win, all I had to do was surf it well" and that is exactly what he did. It is a title that Kereopa continually strives to win. It will go down well after having spent the Friday evening prior to the event dining with the Maori King at the Waikato District Sports Awards, a true indication of the mana he holds in the Maori sporting community.

Jessica Santorik (Ngati Tama) did what her older brother could not this weekend by defending her title. Jessica dominated the Roxy Women’s division and finished the final with a 15.50 heat total. Santorik, at her home break, attacked several waves with dogged determination and the judges rewarded her accordingly. Mischa Davis (Ngapuhi) was never going to lie down and was in the hunt throughout the whole final. Davis rode some great waves smoothly linking turns all the way down the point but came up slightly short scoring 12.50 in the final. Sophie Moore pulled off some great turns but was unable to find the longer waves that Santorik and Davis secured and had to settle for third with Wini Paul (Ngati Hine) in fourth.

Conan James (Te Atiawa) won a tough battle in the Rip Curl under 18 boys division to take out a crowd pleasing win for his Taranaki supporters. James managed to find two bigger set waves that peeled the length of the point and he made sure every turn counted with re-entries and tight cutbacks for a heat total of 12.0. While the lead swung several times between three of the finalists, neither Johnny Hicks (Ngati Porou) nor Bodhi Whitaker (Ngati Whakaue) could hold it. Hicks finished the strongest with a 6.60 to take second with Whitaker finishing in third. Double finalist Buck Woods (Ngati Teata) placed fourth.

Jamie Andrews (Ngati Ruanui) flew into first place in the Auahi Kore Longboard division and never relinquished the lead. Andrews scored 5.75 on his first wave and then bettered that with an excellent 8.0 point ride where he floated across two big sections driving his longboard high along the whitewash. Andrews who also posted a seventh in the Open Men’s held off a strong field of longboarders that included Daniel Kereopa who finished in second. A disappointed Kereopa mixed the old with the new but it was not enough to eclipse the scores of Andrews. However it was enough to get past young Wellington surfer Kirk Beyer (Te Atiawa) who placed third and Jason Matthews (Te Atiawa) who finished fourth.

Fourteen year old Johnny Hicks (Ngati Porou) dominated the Volcom under 16 boys division throughout the weekend and carried on through to win the final in convincing fashion. Hicks surfed aggressively linking big forehand turns down the point and completing tight cutbacks to post 12.25 out of a possible 20. Buck Woods (Ngati Teata) finished runner up after struggling to find the longer waves and having to settle for shorter rides which scored a total of 8.65. First time finalists Thomas Hardwick (Te Atihau) and Hemi Clark (Tainui) had to settle for third and fourth after an excellent run of form saw them make the finals.

In his second finals appearance, Phillip Willoughby (Ngapuhi) took out a very close tussle in the Bodyline Over 30s narrowly beating Jason Matthews. Willoughby’s recent training looked to pay off early with his first ride netting him 6.50 but it wasn’t until his last scoring ride that he secured the win. He was fortunate that his closest rival Motu Mataa (Te Atiawa) was involved in an interference relegating him to third with previous Over 30s champion Sean Coffey in fourth.

In his first of four finals (eight heats for the day) Jason Matthews went berserk scoring 14.50 to win the Auahi Kore Over 40s. His heat total included an excellent 8.0 point ride which left the other competitors requiring near perfect 10 point rides to take the lead. Martin Matenga (Waikato) gave it his all to place second with a total of 8.35 and Ronnie Mayor (Ngati Rangi) and Andy Matuku (Ngati Mutunga) paced third and fourth respectively.

Phil Willoughby (Ngapuhi) used is local knowledge to make the most of the Auahi Kore Over 35 Men’s final and defend his title on home turf. Willoughby was already in the lead with a pair of 5.0 point rides before he found the wave of the final in the last five minutes and completed three huge vertical backhand re-entries to score an excellent 8.5 point ride and surge further away from the remaining three surfers. Jason Matthews contesting the second of his four finals lost his early momentum but kept hold of second ahead of the Raihe Rutene (Te Aitanga A Mahaki) and Waru Ratu (Maniapoto) who finished in third and fourth respectively.