Taranaki surfers Tom Butland and Jarred Hancox stamp their authority on the Open Men’s division at the O’Neill Coldwater Classic held in Kaikoura over King’s Birthday Weekend with Poppy Entwisle winning the Women’s Open division for the second year in a row.
It’s hard to say no to a surf contest in an idyllic settling like Kaikoura and this year the town continued to embrace the event with many of the local businesses getting behind the event to support it with generous donations and prizes. It makes a big difference to the buzz of any event when you’re seeing the local shops, cafes and eateries getting behind to promote and support it. The whole town felt like it was there for us this past weekend.
That’s mainly due to Kaikoura Boardriders Club and the mahi its members put in to weave that sense of ownership into the contest. There are a lot of surf towns around New Zealand that could learn a thing or two from the way Kaikoura delivers an event.
The surfing is only one part of the O’Neill Coldwater Classic. It’s also about starting a fire on the beach, warming up after a surf next to the flames and catching up with mates around a smoky campfire. There’s very few places in the world that can still deliver that experience. In many ways it’s uniquely New Zealand. It’s the picture we all dream of when we think of surf adventure.
The contest forecast was about as cryptic as you can get with scenarios from 1 foot to 4 foot and every wind direction imaginable … depending on where you looked. None of the forecasts had it right. Friday was a junky swell that dropped to an almost impossible size with surfers having to complete end section turns right onto the rocks. It was a ding repairman’s dream. Damian Phillips finished one reo with a head plant onto dry rocks and somehow managed to emerge unscathed. To progress you really had to put your body and your board on the line. Those who took the risk earned the judges’ approval.
By Saturday the swell had cleaned up and picked up to about 2-3 foot. A devil wind southerly blew through around midday and the organisers must have thought it was here to stay. They pulled the Open finals forward to avoid the surf deteriorating further. Unfortunately they ended up in the worst waves of the day with the longboard finalists enjoying the pick of the conditions and the most size in the swell. I’m glad I don’t have to make those calls.
The arrival of two Taranaki surfers was a welcome one. Tom Butland is one of the very best surfers in New Zealand right now and you can never fault the hard work and dedication that Jarred Hancox puts in. He just keeps getting better and better. Kaikoura’s waves gave them a chance to showcase that.
It was no surprise to see Tom take out the Men’s division (and the $1000 cash). He beat Jarred and local ripper Levi O’Connor in the process with an in-form Ruben Peyroux just adrift in fourth.
In the Women’s Open it was 15-year-old Poppy Entwisle who won a thrilling tussle with Estella Hungerford for the $1000 prize purse, retaining the title she won in 2022. Poppy only turned 15 a few days ahead of the contest. Her open win was backed up by a win in the Under 16s.
The Under 18 Boys saw Alexis Owen bounce back from a forgettable Under 16 final performance to claim the win ahead of Jack Tyro, Lincoln Penei and Frank Roberts. All four surfers had shown blistering form throughout the event.
The Under 18 Girls was won by Rewa Morrison who got out to an early lead and just kept applying pressure in some fairly tricky wave conditions. Wave selection was key with Sari Ayson finding a good wave in the dying moments to claim second ahead of local Sacha Surgenor and Lenka Cargill, of Westport.
In the Under 16 Boys Lincoln Penei executed a smart final strategy to take the win over super-grom Alexis Owen who got lost at sea for a large part of the final. Lexi eventually found a wave in the dying moments to go from fourth to second beating Sonny Lyons and Travis Henderson in the process. Travis tapped into a great run of form in Kaikoura with some superb waves ridden on his way to the final.
Poppy was dominant in the Under 16 Girls despite tricky high-tide waves, managing to find some great open faces for big carving turns. She bettered Rewa who finished second, with Sari Ayson and Eden Hungerford in third and fourth.
Jack Tyro put on a dominant display in the Open Men’s Longboard final to beat Charlie Wise in second, Nick Tuhikarama in third and Drew Dunfoy in fourth. Jack seemed to enjoy the pulse in the swell and the biggest waves of the weekend.
The Women’s Open Longboard final saw Estella Hungerford edge ahead of Donna Henderson, Jess Galbraith and Lucy Te Moananui for the win. Estella recently returned from the ISA Longboard World Champs.
The second largest division after the Men’s Open, the Over 30s saw 28 athletes vie for bragging rights. The final saw a huge battle between Christchurch’s Ryan Hawker, Jarred Hancox, Dunedin’s Joe Kain and local Levi O’Connor. It was a spectacle from start to finish with a high standard of surfing from the very first round. In the end Ryan’s big smooth power carves saw him take the win ahead of Jarred, then Joe, with Levi in fourth.
The Over 30 Women’s division saw another great battle with Dunedin’s Ang Reardon getting the win over Westport’s Pana Leontiadu and local Lucy Te Moananui.
The Grandmasters division provided an equally competitive division with Jarred Norton taking the win from Alan Te Moananui in second, Aaron Lock in third and Aaron Surgenor in fourth.
The prizegiving took place at The Strawberry Tree in town along with an interesting raffle draw. Al Te Moananui seemed to keep drawing out his Kaikoura Boardriders Club committee members and family … even his mum won a prize. If I didn’t know Al T better you could have sworn it was rigged. Duan Reardon had spent about $200 on tickets and no amount of sorcery was going to see his name called out. In the end, few could argue – the winners truly deserved the rewards for making the King’s first birthday such a stellar occasion.
Full Results 2023 O’Neill Kaikoura Coldwater Classic