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The Naki Strikes Back!

Winner Luke Johnson looping to Victory on a borrowed CarbonArt board

Storms, Bombs and Sharks

The prelude to this year’s TWC was interesting. The day before the warm up a 4.7 metre, one and a half tonne female great white was caught only 4km off Raglan (north taranaki coast). When opened the shark contained a 90kg seal lion swallowed whole with the exception of its flippers! Rumours that the sharks’ pissed off mate was looking for payback along the Taranaki coastline made more than a couple of sailors nervous.

The next day a low that had formed off the North Queensland coast swooped down from the tropics intensifying rapidly or what we call bombing over the lower half of New Zealand’s North Island. The bomb caused flooding on the east coast, and extreme wind conditions. Taranaki did not miss out. On Friday the day before the contest the wind around the southern Taranaki spots was smoking! Kina Road was measuring gusts of up to 55 knots. Storm force winds combined with driven sea spray and rain did not make for an attractive proposition. Needless to say a couple of lunatics stepped up to the mark and were soon driven back in with their tails between their legs.

A Real Super Session

The aftermath of the bomb left us with a sunny consistent 25 knot cross to cross on with a 3- 4 foot wind swell. It wasn’t perfect but it didn’t matter. There was lots of power, lots of ramps and lots of peaky sections to smack. The general level of sailing was an order of magnitude up from previous years. Being able to forward loop was no longer good enough to get you a look in, as it seems that at least half the 60 or so contestants have mastered this move, at least on port tack. The aerial assault on Kina Road was something to behold with some of the competitors electing to sit in the dunes to watch the action. At the end of the super session the judges had the unenviable task of trying to trim at least 16 possible finalists down to 10, only made slightly easier by one of the hot French sailors failing to come in for the finals briefing.

The final 10 signalled a real shake up of the New Zealand wave sailing order and a shift back to local Taranaki sailors. The visiting Australians and previous TWC winners Luke Johnson and Dan Berry got the nod impressing the gallery with huge jumps of every variety including a couple of double forward attempts from Luke. Wellington TWC veterans James Court, and Chris Norris also made the cut with solid performances in the air and on the wave. However, the lion’s share of places was taken by local Taranaki sailors revelling in the port tack conditions at one of their favourite home spots. Taranaki transplants Dirk Ritterhaus Schmidt, Jeff Sutton, and Spencer Lewis. The new school Mike La Franchie, Chris La Franchie, and the old school Paul Barron all building on their performances in the recent New Zealand Wave Nationals.

The Aussie Domination continues

The final was held in flagging wind and swell conditions that caught many of the finalists unaware until they were on the water. However after a sail change Dan Berry dominated the air with perfect back loops, forward loops, and classic barrel rolls while Luke Johnson dominated the wave riding. The other finalists did their best to squeeze points out of the deteriorating conditions. Dirk Schmidt’s vertical attack and Jeff Sutton’s aggressive wave sailing stood out. Paul Barron shared his board with his wife Jill Barron, only making the last ten minutes and still raking up some high scoring rides. In the end Luke Johnson put in the more complete performance to take the 2005 TWC title over Dan Berry by a whisker.

Jill Barron obviously benefiting from the local conditions and shared board sailed well to take out the woman’s title over Jill Cooper and Mary O’Bryne.

Maniacs and tin arses

Following on from last years epic prize giving party, this year’s party followed the same format with dancing maniacs raging on ’till 2am in the morning. The highlight or depending on your perspective the lowlight of the night was James Thomas, the tinny bastard, walking away with not only the brand new Carbon Art board but a Neil Pryde combat RDM as well.

For me the most vivid image from this contest was the guy wearing a helmet and a flotation jacket and obviously being his first time out at Kina Road who came up to me beaming like a madman raving “oh my god . . . that was by far the best session I have ever had!”. He wasn’t a finalist, maybe not even a contestant but he was probably the most stoked sailor there, and that’s what it’s all about.

As always a huge thanks to the organisers of this contest, Carbon Art and Deepfried tv. The TWC continues to thrive under these guys, the legend is growing. Thanks also to the sponsors that make this event extremely attractive Maui Sails, Hot Sails Maui, North Sails, Bic Surf, Neil Pryde, Whitewater fins, Vertigo, Dakine, Wind & Kite, Stash-it, Cafe Wunderbar.

Results Men
1st Luke Johnson – AUS
2nd Dan Berry – AUS
3rd Dirk Ritterhaus Schmidt – Taranaki
4th Jeff Sutton – Taranaki
5th Spencer Lewis – UK/Taranaki
6th James Court – Wellington
7th Chris La Franchie – Taranaki
8th Chris Norris – Wellington
9th Mike La Franchie – Taranaki
10th Paul Barron – Taranaki

Women
1st Jill Barron – Taranaki
2nd Jill Cooper – Auckland
3rd Mary O’Bryne – Wellington

Words – James Court