The Open Men’s Division of the Hyundai National Surfing Championships entered the water for the first time yesterday with great conditions on offer at Taranaki’s number one break, Stent Road. While the top seeded surfers enter the fray in the next round of the event, the surfing was nothing short of top notch.

Local surfer Simon Deken showed the entire 96-man field how to surf the break when he blitzed the 1.0m – 1.5m waves achieving the highest heat score of the day – 14.60 out of a possible 20. Deken is a former Under 16 Boys National Champion (1997 and 1998) and has represented New Zealand on a number of occasions in the under 18 age group. His highest single wave score was a near perfect 9.5 out of a possible 20. Deken’s speed was electric and on the 9.5 point wave and he completed several high speed turns all the way down the point throwing spray skyward in tight pocket turns.

Deken now moves through to the second round where he will face Mark Dovey (Mnt), Jeremy Evans and Taranaki legend Motu Mataa. If conditions prevail which they are forecast to do, many of the top seeds may meet the surfer everyone is now calling the event dark horse. Eight further Taranaki surfers progressed yesterday and they included Cole Baker, Jamie Andrews, Luke Kerr, Blanton Smith, Batchelor Tipene and Jayson Zimmerman.

Another to standout early in the day was Auckland surfer Chris Millett who posted 14.35 to win his heat. The thirty five year old surfer is competing in three divisions at the Hyundai Nationals and yesterday was the start of his campaign. Millett enjoyed the glassy morning conditions linking a number of big top turns all the way down the point to score highly.

South Island surfers were well represented with six surfers progressing to the second round including four from Dunedin. However it was Christchurch’s Hayden Brain that top scored with 13.65 for his heat total. Brain is a regular competitor in the North Island making the Corona Super 16 in 2006.

For Dunedin it was Felix Dickson who top scored with 12.65 to progress alongside Morehu Roberts (Gis). Dickson was one of many ‘goofy foot’ surfers to progress throughout the day which is not the norm for Stent Road – a bowly righthand point break that favours the natural footers.

The Breakers Under 18 Boys completed their quarter finals and it was Tim O’Conner of Mount Maunganui who stole the show top scoring with 13.25 to move through to the semi finals. O’Conner only returned from Australia at 1.00am that morning after competing over there for the past week where he placed a very credible 13th at an event held at Bells Beach, Victoria.

O’Conner and friend Richard Christie (Mah) travelled through the night to make it to the event but this did not seem to hinder O’Conner’s performance. In a quarter final heat that was filled with enough talent to be a final, O’Conner held the lead throughout with fellow Mount surfer Matt Hewitt placing second upsetting Piha’s Ryan Hawker who placed third with national representative Johnny Hicks of Gisborne in fourth.

Other heat winners in the under 18s included local boy Keone Campbell, Whangarei’s Paco Divers and Tairua’s Sean Peggs.

The forecast for today is looking promising for good conditions again with a similar size swell and light winds from the southerly quarter.

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