A marginal forecast for Good Friday meant the 2013 NZ Wave Nationals kicked off at 10 am at the Carbon Art factory with a very relaxed briefing and plenty of SUPs to be spotted atop cars…
not really a sign of high expectations from the competitors for Day One!
The 2013 wavesailing nationals was a truly international affair, with sailors from France, Belgium, New Zealand, UK, New Caledonia, Auckland, Germany and Spain making up the draw. Many thanks to those who made the trek from far away, especially Antoine and Yoan from New Caledonia, and as always, all the Auckland crew for turning up with plenty of enthusiasm.
Upon the competitor convoy’s arrival at Kina Rd around 11 o’clock there was a surprise [light] northwest breeze blowing and some fun head high waves rolling through (albeit dampened a little by the super-large high tide). By midday Thomas Davies was out on the Kina Rd North break showing that with perseverance there waves were to be had, and like lemmings the rest of us competitors joined him. However the cross-shore wind remained consistently marginal, and while last year’s winner Ferran ‘El Torito’ Crespo was showing plenty of his usual style, along with Oliver Perkins and Christophe Massa also sailing well, there was never quite enough to start running heats. With competition abandoned for the day James Dinnis cranked up the BBQ which promptly saw the wind lift a few knots for about 30 minutes, making for some enjoyable wave rides, along with a few traditional grommet drop-ins. Then it was beer-o’clock!
Day Two started with the first rain to be seen in Taranaki in over nine months! (The locals swear this is true, although Simon Smith’s partner Louise may beg to differ, as what appeared to be yet another miserable wet weekend in Taranaki once again coincided with her arrival from Auckland the night before. Sorry Louise!)
The wind was fully cross-off, and while still light, as the rain eased there was enough to see the first heat hit the water just after midday to strut their stuff on the head-high waves. Twenty minute long heats were decided on to give all competitors enough time to get their two scoring waves, with Heat Two proving to be a super tight affair. Ferran won by a nose, while a count-back had to be undertaken to separate Julien and Antoine for Julien’s second position and passage to the second round. By the third heat the wind seemed to drop a smidgen and the set waves became a little less frequent, making wave selection critical. In Heat Four Alexander Strehz showed he is developing some serious style with some nicely timed aerials to make it through to the quarter finals and keep the Auckland team’s hope alive. The conditions held long enough though for all the preliminary heats to be run, and to celebrate their completion Ferran provided some entertainment by rolling an unsuspecting James Dinnis down the sand dune.
Taranki decided to really turn it on for Louise on Day Three with Kina Rd bearing the brunt of some slightly ‘humid’ weather. A hell squall turned the light cross-offshore wind into a 4.0 m + gale and brought some welcome horizontal rain, before settling back to ‘variable’ conditions, accompanied by larger but much junkier waves. The breeze continued to gust up and down; meaning finding the right sail to rig was a challenge. With the sun coming out and some freesailing showing that jumping was on, the quarter-finals hit the water, with two waves and two jumps being counted. However the combination of the large incoming tide, junky waves and dropping wind swinging toward cross-onshore made for tricky conditions. Plenty of moving water literally took the wind out of the competitors’ sails for their jumping hopes and waves seemed to appear and disappear at random. On the water it seemed like everyone else was scoring great rides while you were constantly finding fat lumps that refused to break correctly!
The messy nature of the waves meant the ‘north-break’ extended down into, and past the channel, also making judging a challenge. Jump scores came into play, with almost all competitors busting out ‘extreme chop-hops’ at the first hint of planning (not often!) in an effort to boost their scores, and occasionally a rare moment of planing combined with a ramp of some sort to enable a forward loop and help their chances of making it through to the final rounds.
The forecast for Day Four wasn’t including wind, so to get a result the final four of Chris La Franchie, James Dinnis, Ferran Crespo and Craig Williams were sent out in a sub 12 knot, slightly cross-onshore zephyr, or as Tony Borland Lye said it would be described in Auckland: ‘fully sick down the line conditions’. Chris La Franchie became the 2013 NZ Wave Nationals Champion with some nicely picked waves high up in the break, closely followed by Ferran Crespo in second and James Dinnis taking out third. The juniors also got a result with Hamish Dunning-Beck first and Luke Holliday second. Some welcome beers and sausages on the BBQ followed in the pleasantly warm afternoon, making for an enjoyable finish to a really fun weekend. At the prizegiving Yoan from New Caledonia won of couple of Black Project fins for busting out his styley jumps and wave manoeuvres over the weekend, courtesy of West Coast Sails and Mad Loop Windusrfing School. Many thanks are due to all those who made the event possible, especially James Dinnis and Carbon Art for the continued support, Chris La Franchie and Paul Barron for all their work in organising the event, West Coast Sails, Mad Loop Windsurfing School and the Taranaki Windsurf club. See you all at the 30th anniversary of the Taranaki Wave Classic!
1st: Hamish Dunning-Beck
2nd: Luke Holliday
Carbon Art http://www.carbonartwindsurf.com
West Coast Sails http://www.westcoastsails.co.nz
MadLoop Windsurfing School http://www.madloop.co.nz
Photos: Surf Photo NZ