Zen Wallis defends title at the Emerson’s South Island Surfing Championships and claims his second career win on the New Zealand Surf Series. He is joined by 17-year-old Estella Hungerford who wins first ever title in the Open Women’s Division.
Despite a small 1-3 foot swell throughout the three-day event window, the South Island Surf Championships produced contestable conditions right into finals day when the light winds eventually turned onshore. The peaks at St Clair Beach, Dunedin, were challenging and rewarded those surfers who could unlock the onshore puzzle – and it wasn’t always the locals coming up trumps.
The Open Men’s final was a nail-biting affair with Zen Wallis, of Piha, coming out of the gates strong as locals Elliott Brown and Josh Thickpenny struggled to find rhythm. Shane Kraus, also of Piha, started slow, but soon clicked into gear and took the fight to Wallis. The two exchanged set waves while Thickpenny and Brown hunted inside runners. The mixed up lineup didn’t reward them. The sets pushed through the outside bank and produced a string of lefts and rights, delivering Wallis a 14.43 point heat total. Kraus, 19, looked dangerous at times, but his 13.7 wasn’t going to reel in the on-form Wallis. Towards the end of the final Brown finally tapped into his usual form on a long left and posted his best score, but without a back-up he could only manage third. Thickpenny had to settle for fourth. The win makes this Wallis’s second South Island Surfing Championship title in a row.
“I’m so fizzing. I’m absolutely over the moon,” he smiles afterwards. “I don’t feel greedy at all winning two in a row – I really wanted this so bad. That’s a key thing for me – I can get a little bit soft – even in the final there I probably should have shut the door on the guys a bit more. I don’t have it in me to sit on people to stop them catching waves.”
“I came down here after a string of bad results – first and second round knock outs and I told myself I had to turn something around down here. I really connect with the South Island and especially here in Dunedin – I’ve been coming to this event ever since I was a grom and there is just something about it. I even had a feeling that this might happen.”
Wallis said that the Emerson’s South Island Championships were never an easy gig.
“Every single quarterfinal was stacked with past winners of the title getting knocked out,” he explains. “It was gnarly. None of the heats were easy runs – it just shows the talent down here and makes this such a prestigious event to win.”
Wallis started strong in the final and managed to fend off a slow-building attack by his finalists.
“I started with a six and I wanted to better that wave,” he recalls. Then I locked in a seven and was out the back running away with it. If the heat had ended at 20 minutes I would have been set. We had a lull and then I knew there was going to be another set. Shane was sitting wider than me, Elliott was finding his rhythm and I knew it was going down to the wire.”
This result pushes Wallis up nine places to sixth overall on the New Zealand Surf Series.
In the Open Women’s final Estella Hungerford, of Christchurch, was a girl on a mission after falling short in the Under 18 Girl’s Final. She came out firing and used that energy to fuel a powerful attack on the rights off the main peak. Her 11.6 was enough to put clear air between her and second-placed Tash Civil and Shani Ayson, both of Dunedin, who managed to find 7.83 and 7.67 respectively. Anna Hawes, of the West Coast, rounded out the final with 6.43.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Hungerford smiles. “I come here every year and I’ve made the final the past few years, but it has never actually gone my way, so this year I am stoked. The sets were pretty inconsistent, but it was kind of like Brighton today, which is where I surf always – onshore and a bit crappy. It was pretty fun on the set waves. I like surfing my backhand, so I was looking for the rights. It wasn’t typical Dunedin waves, but it is always fun down here and being right on the waterfront here makes it a pretty unique venue.”
Hungerford is the older step-sister of Ava Henderson who, at 13, is proving to be a force to be reckoned with.
“We definitely have some rivalry in the family,” she laughs. “Ava is getting really good. We started surfing at the same time when our parents got together and so we definitely push each other – it’s really good.”
Hungerford said she hadn’t had the best season this year.
“I’ve made finals, but haven’t pulled it together in the end,” she admits. “You always learn more from your losses, but I am pretty stoked to finally win one.”
Elliott Brown produced a winning performance in the Under 20 Boys Division, stomping some big turns in the final. Taranaki surfer Tom Butland won the Under 18s, but had to bow out to Kaikoura’s Reuben Lyons in the Under 16s. Mount Maunganui surfer, Tao Mouldey, put everyone on notice with his dominant performance and earning himself an impressive double winning the Under 14s and 12s. By winning the Under 14s, he also won a brand new Quarry Beach Surfboard.
Double finalist Shani Ayson, of Dunedin, won the Under 20 Girls Division with Georgia Wederell, of Mount Maunganui winning the Under 18s. Liv Hayson, of Piha, claimed the Under 16s with local Misha Peyroux winning the Under 14s title. Pauanui surfer Chloe Groube won the Under 12s with her father Matt winning the Over 45s.
Wallis was again in action in the Men’s Longboard Division, but this time could not produce a winning performance finishing second to the defending champion Hugh Ritchie, of Christchurch. Ritchie finished with an 11.6 point heat total, less than a point clear of Wallis with Stephen Lee, of the West Coast, finishing in third and Nick Black, of Christchurch, in fourth.
Almost 200 entries were received with the vast majority coming from the South Island surfing community eager to contest the southern-most nationally sanctioned event.
The event was hosted by the South Coast Boardriders and was dual sanctioned by Surfing New Zealand and the South Island Surfing Association.
The Emerson’s South Island Surfing Championships is the fourth of seven events on the 2019 New Zealand Surf Series. See below for remaining events:
Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Championships, Christchurch (mobile) – 26-28 April
Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro, Raglan – 3-5 May
Backdoor BayBash, location TBC – 16-17 November
The event is also part of the New Zealand Grom Series and the New Zealand Longboard Series.
Words: Surfing New Zealand/Ben Kennings, Derek Morrison
Images: Derek Morrison
Emerson’s 2019 South Island Championships Results
Open Men’s Division Finals
Zen Wallis (Piha), 14.43, 1, Shane Kraus (Piha), 13.7, 2, Elliott Brown (Dun), 12.2, 3, Josh Thickpenny (Dun), 6.8, 4
Open Women’s Division Final
Estella Hungerford (Chch), 11.6, 1, Tash Civil (Dun), 7.83, 2, Shani Ayson (Dun), 7.67, 3, Anna Hawes (WC), 6.43, 4
Under 20 Boys Division Final
Elliott Brown (Dun), 13.4, 1, Conor McLennan (Chch), 11.7, 2, Shane Kraus (Piha), 11.1, 3, Jack McLeod (Dun), 10.9, 4
Under 20 Girls Division Final
Shani Ayson (Dun), 10.5, 1, Ava Henderson (Chch), 7.87, 2, Anna Brock (Mnt), 7, 3, Lydia Hawes (WC), 4.89, 4
Under 18 Girls Division Final
Georgia Wederell (Mnt), 12.3, 1, Tegen Bishop (Chch), 6.6, 2, Estella Hungerford (Chch), 5.9, 3, Liv Haysom (Piha), 5.67, 4
Under 18 Boys Division Final
Tom Butland (Tara), 13.8, 1, Ruben Peyroux (Dun), 11, 2, Taylor O’Leary (Mur), 9.77, 3, Reuben Lyons (Kaik), 7.13, 4
Under 16 Boys Division Final
Reuben Lyons (Kaik), 11, 1, James Millar (Chch), 9.73, 2, Tom Butland (Tara), 8.57, 3, Luke Rogers (Dun), 5.8, 4
Under 16 Girls Division Final
Liv Haysom (Piha), 9.23, 1, Anika Ayson (Dun), 9.2, 2, Ava Henderson (Chch), 8.1, 3, Anna Brock (Mnt), 6.37, 4
Under 14 Girls Division Final
Misha Peyroux (Dun), 12.8, 1, Blaise Lyons (Kaik), 7.3, 2, Chloe Groube (Pau), 3.76, 3, Tessa Gabbott (Dun), 2.9, 4
Under 14 Boys Division Final
Tao Mouldey (Mnt), 10.8, 1, Campbell Heasley (Chch), 7.7, 2, Jake Owen (Dun), 5.56, 3, Jack Mckenzie (Chch), 5.13, 4
Under 12 Boys Division Final
Tao Mouldey (Mnt), 14.2, 1, Alexis Owen (Dun), 11.9, 2, Sonny Lyons (Kaik), 6.83, 3, Lewis Murphy (Dun), 6.33, 4
Under 12 Girls Division Final
Chloe Groube (Pau), 10.7, 1, Amelie Clark (Chch), 6.8, 2, Tessa Gabbott (Dun), 6.13, 3, Ava O’Malley (Chch), 5.13, 4
Over 30 Men’s Division Final
Josh Thickpenny (Dun), 9.77, 1, Dane Robertson (Kaik), 7.6, 2, Damian Phillips (Dun), 7.5, 3, Luke Murphy (Dun), 5.6, 4
Over 45 Men’s Division Final
Matt Groube (Pau), 14.4, 1, Richard Ayson (Dun), 14.3, 2, Lyndon Fairbairn (Dun), 12.8, 3, Justin Summerton (Dun)), 8.03, 4
Senior Women’s Division Final
Hayley Coakes (Dun), 8.93, 1, Tash Civil (Dun), 8.1, 2, Jane Schofield (Dun), 5.5, 3, Lucy Te Moananui (Kaik), 5.03, 4
Men’s Longboard Division Final
Hugh Ritchie (Chch), 11.57, 1, Zen Wallis (Piha), 10.93, 2, Nick Black (Chch), 7.23, 3, Stephen Lee (WC), 7.77, 4
Women’s Longboard Division Final
Donna Henderson (Chch), 11.7, 1, Anna Hawes (WC), 9.17, 2, Kath Evydean (Chch), 7.37, 3, Mikaya Dyer (Dun), 7.33, 4
Stand Up Paddleboard Division Final
Blair Cooke (Chch), 9.9, 1, Dion Findlay (WC), 9, 2, Steev Peyroux (Dun), 6.77, 3, Sam Loader (Chch), 5.73, 4