Piha’s Ryan Hawker will be looking for the ultimate hat-trick when the Hyundai National Surfing Championships begins at Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island next week, with the former under-16 division champion looking to claim his third consecutive Quiksilver King of the Groms crown.
The classy natural footer has won the past two Quiksilver King of the Groms crowns when they were held as stand-alone events, then gone on to represent his country on the international stage at the King of the Groms grand final held in 2005 and 2006 in the beach break waves of Capbreton, France.
At next week’s nationals, Quiksilver has chosen to sponsor the under-16 division of the championships and Hawker, the most dominant surfer in the country for his age, is hoping he can clean sweep the field once again.
“Winning the King of the Groms has probably been the best experience I’ve ever had,” says Hawker. “The first year I won was my first major trip overseas and the first chance I had to meet all the guys from the other countries. It made me really lift my surfing; the standard was so high over there. You don’t really know what you’re up against until you get out and see it. You bring that experience back home with you.”
A win next week in the Under-16s field will see Hawker literally crowned at the beach on the winner’s dais and draped in a royal robe. He will then be treated like a ‘King”, given complimentary airfares to Europe for himself and a chaperone courtesy of Quiksilver, plus accommodation in France where he will battle it out against 47 other hopefuls gunning for the overall international Quiksilver King of the Groms crown.
But first Hawker must overcome a local field of nearly 40 other contenders, who will be hoping for a little royal treatment of their own. According to Surfing New Zealand Contest Director Ben Kennings, the biggest threats are likely to come from Mt Maunganui’s Matt Hewitt, and Gisborne locals Johnny Hicks and Buck Woods, plus one or two others desperate to get their hands on the crown.
“To give the Under-16s the chance to represent New Zealand and win a trip overseas is beyond every grommet’s wildest dreams so it really elevates this division to a whole new level,” said Kennings. “We’re expecting big things in this division.”
The royal treatment continues for the winner of the overall King of the Groms international series, the talented champion is then flown around the world to each of Quiksilver’s ASP World Championship Tour events and guaranteed a wildcard into the trials where a good performance could see them drawn against the likes of Eight-time World Champion, American legend Kelly Slater (Fl, USA) or three-time world champion Andy Irons (Hawaii).
“It’s definitely a dream of mine to win it again for New Zealand,” said Hawker. Hawker was allowed to keep his crown for a short time after his last win before someone approached him and asked for it back. “I think it was from a drama school, or fancy dress shop or something,” he said.
The Hyundai National Titles hosts 21 divisions, including Quiksilver’s King of the Groms and entries are in excess of 350 competitors who will surf over eight days. The contest is mobile for the best waves in the Taranaki area and will begin Saturday, 13th January.