Zennor Wernham of Raglan clinched a last second victory on Sunday at the Surfing New Zealand Pro held at Gisborne’s Makarori Beach.
The event, held in association with New Wave Surfboards and the first on the Corona Crown Series was played out in a clean but dying 0.5m-1.0m swell that required the highest performance surfing as well as excellent strategy to win.
The action filled final was an indication of the tense competition when it was determined in a last thirty second wave exchange that proved pivotal for the final results.
It was Wernham who got the best of the exchange scoring 6.60 on his last ride to jump from third to first.
An elated Wernham couldn’t believe his ditch heroics: “I can’t believe it, that’s crazy, we didn’t hear the scores for a while in the final so we weren’t too sure what we needed to score but I knew I needed a good wave and I got it, I am just so stoked.”
It was generally a slow heat for Wernham who opened the final on his first wave with a 6.65 and he then played the patience game which eventually paid off.
“I got that first wave and knew that I was in with a chance to win but then the wind came up and the waves got real bad. It turned out all good though, man I still can’t believe it.”
Through the middle of the heat it was Morehu Roberts, who now resides in Gisborne, that moved into the lead after finding some excellent left handers. Roberts led with a total heat score of 13.10 but that was to be eclipsed late in the heat by Wernham.
Both Ryan Hawker and Damon Gunness who finished third and fourth respectively also caught last minute waves. Young Hawker who was surfing his seventh heat of the day was first up posting 6.05 on his last wave then Gunness with a last ditch righthander that scored 5.25 but that was not enough to move him out of fourth place.
Earlier Hawker and Wernham eliminated seasoned professionals Daniel Kereopa and Justin Souter in semi final one with Roberts and Gunness eliminating Luke Hughes and Mike Banks both of Raglan in semi final two.
The Surfing New Zealand Pro denotes the first of six events on the Corona Crown Series this summer. Wernham takes the early advantage leading into the next event which is the Hyundai National Champs to be held in Taranaki in January.
Paige Hareb won the Women’s division with her typically aggressive approach. She got off to a great start scoring a 6.0 on a long lefthander then late in the heat she backed that up with a 5.40 on a shorter right hander with two critical turns.
Jessica Santorik was in with a chance on her last scoring ride but when the score came in at 6.35 it was only enough to move her from third to second ahead of Mischa Davis. Davis surfed one righthander particularly well scoring 5.50 early but as the wind increased and the ocean died, she could not find anything decent in the latter half of the final. Local surfer Jessica Welch finished the final in fourth place for her first finals berth this year.
Richard Christie sealed the final of the Junior Men with a scintillating first five minutes of surfing that saw him surf 8.75 and 6.65 point rides for a lead that he never relinquished. However his lead was in jeopardy by all three other finalists in what was a very high scoring final. Christie’s powerful forehand and ability to complete critical manouvres was what set him apart from the other finalists and allow him to win his last ever Under 18 Boys event that he is eligible for. Tim O’Connor finished the tight heat in second place scoring 14.25 for his heat total as he worked the small righthanders all the way to the beach. Billy Stairmand hunted out the lefts but finished in third place only just ahead of double finalist Ryan Hawker with scores of 12.85 and 12.45 respectively. By placing third in the final Stairmand did enough to clinch the Junior Series for 2006.
The race was over before the final however with closest rivals Bodhi Whitaker and Kierin Van Der Helder being eliminated prior to the semi finals. Closest rival Hawker could only watch after Stairmand progressed through to the final which was enough for the series win.
Earlier the junior boys blazed the semi finals with several surfers unlucky not to progress. Stairmand and Christie disposed of Joe Gethen and Karne Pitcher. O’Connor and Hawker eliminated Paco Divers who posted the event high 9.0 point ride and Matt Hewitt.