Tim O'Connor: beautiful snap, mate

Tim O'Connor and Leon Santorik (Ngati Toa) went wave for wave at the Auahi Kore Aotearoa Maori Titles today with O'Connor getting the nod scoring 17.00 out of a possible 20 points for a well deserved win.

The final day of the event was played out in clean 1.0m waves at Manu Bay, Raglan under blazing sun that saw the natural amphitheatre packed full of spectators come finals time.

The pinnacle Billabong Open Men's Division was the climax of the event and the surfing displayed by the four finalists warranted rapturous cheers from the crowd lining the bay.

Santorik opened the final with 6.0 point ride and was on the next wave knocking up a 7.0 point ride and healthy lead within the first five minutes.

However it was O'Connor that notched up an 8.67 on his first ride and then waited for a second good scoring ride which he secured with a series of vertical backhand re-entries to score an 8.33 point ride. The task seemed insurmountable for Santorik now requiring a 9.33 for the win but with five minutes to go he rode the best wave of the final only to fall agonisingly short with a score of 8.73.

The final ended up a two horse race with the two older finalists, Daniel Kereopa (Tainui) and Matt Bennett (Ngai Te Rangi) unable to keep up with the frantic pace of the young boys and having to settle for third and fourth respectively.

Jessica Santorik (Ngati Toa) beat her best friend Kelly Clarkson (Te Arawa) in the final of the Roxy Open Women's Division. Santorik posted 15.17 as her total heat score. The win will have been rewarding after she was eliminated in the semifinals of the Billabong Open Men's Division. Clarkson finished in second place scoring 12.33 ahead of Renee Lee (Nga Puhi) in third.

Tyler Lawson (Kahungunu) took out his first major win of his career in the Quiksilver Under 18 Boys Division. Lawson posted a 15.67 point heat total to outscore Mount Maunganui surfer Todd Doyle in second and double finalist Peri Matenga in third scoring 13.93 and 13.20 respectively. Lawson used his flare to rack up the big points opening the final with an 8.33 getting his fins free on several big backhand turns. Young Taranaki surfer Mahorahora McLeod (Ngati Mutunga) placed fourth in the final.

Peri Matenga (Tainui) put on one of his best performances of the year to win the Rapu Under 16 Boys Division. After surfing to a pair of sevens on his opening two rides he then got the biggest set of the final and proceeded to nail three massive backhand hooks to score 9.17 out of a possible ten points and 'combo' his opponents. Elliot Paerata - Reid (Tu Wharetoa) bit back on his last two waves of the heat with 8.33 and 6.60 but came up short finishing in second place. Waretini Wano (Te Atiawa) placed third scoring 11.90 with Kahu Craig - Ranga (Ngaiterangi) in fourth on 10.50.

Taranaki surfer Jeremy Grainger (Ngati Ruanui) won the Bodyline Over 30 Men's Division coming from behind on his last wave to post a 7.33 point ride and leap frog local surfer and 2007 champion Wayne Cooper (Ngai Tai) who finished in second place. Third placed Shaun Coffey (Ngati Ruahine) scored 8.20 in the final with local surfer Harley Muru (Tainui) finishing in fourth place.

Phill Willoughby (Nga Puhi) claimed two divisions on the final day - the Bodyline Over 35 Men's Division title and the Ocean and Earth Over 40 Men's title. The two sit nicely alongside his victories in the Over 30s (2006) and 35s (2005 and 2006).

In the Bodyline Over 35 Men's Division, Willoughby used his local knowledge to surf two brilliant opening waves of 7.33 and 5.97. Defending champion Shaun Coffey (Ngati Ruahine) went wave for wave with Willoughby however he came up 0.1 points short on each wave and placed second. Nick Rowe (Ngati Porou) placed third in the final with Te-Raihe Rutene (Waikato) placing fourth.

Willoughby also claimed his first Ocean and earth Over 40 Men's title on his home break after backing up his Bodyline Over 35 Men's title. Willoughby only rode two waves but after opening with 5.0 and 9.0 point rides, the win was never threatened. Doug Ranga (Ngai Te Rangi) placed second in the final scoring 9.50 with archrival Ronnie Mayor (Ngai Te Rangi) in third and Pipi Ngaia (Te Atiawa) in fourth.

Earlier in the day, Kereopa took out the Hyundai Longboard Division amassing 16.50 points out of 20 through his modern approach to longboarding. Kereopa was the runaway winner in the final with James Atutahi (Te Arawa) placing second scoring 10.83 points to place second. Martin Matanga and Pipi Ngaia finished in third and fourth respectively.

At the prize giving it was a very modest Martin Matenga that was awarded the prestigious Rapu Mana Award for his work done with Maori surfing. Matenga has worked for several years with the young Maori surfers around the Bay of Plenty. Noticeably, he also the father of two talented young surfers, one of which won the Under 16 Boys Division today - Peri Matenga. Matenga has also attended the many Rangatahi Wananga training camps for young Maori surfers embracing the Maori culture and passing on his wisdom to young surfers.

The Auahi Kore Aotearoa Maori Surfing Titles are held annually and the event has become one of the premier events of the Surfing New Zealand events calendar. Labour Weekend is generally the time of the year that the titles are held.

Please see below for final results from the Auahi Kore Aotearoa Maori Titles completed at Manu Bay, Raglan today (Sunday 24th October).

Billabong Open Men's Division Final
Tim O'Connor (Mnt), 1, Leon Santorik (Ngati Toa), 2, Daniel Kereopa (Tainui), 3, Matt Bennett (Ngaiterangi), 4

Roxy Open Women's Final
Jessica Santorik (Ngati Toa), 1, Kelly Clarkson (Te Arawa), 2, Renee Lee (Nga Puhi), 3

Quiksilver Under 18 Boys Final
Tyler Lawson (Kahungunu), 1, Todd Doyle (Nga Puhi), 2, Peri Matenga (Tainui), 3, Mahorahora McLeod (Ngati Mutunga), 4

Rapu Under 16 Boys Finals
Peri Matenga (Tainui), 1, Elliot Paerata - Reid (Tu Whare Toa), 2, Waretini Wano (Te Atiawa), 3, Kahu Craig - Ranga (Ngaiterangi), 4

Bodyline Over 30 Men's Final
Jeremy Grainger (Ngati Ruanui), 1, Wayne Cooper (Ngai Tai), 2, Shaun Coffey (Ngati Ruahine), 3, Harley Muru (Tainui), 4

Bodyline Over 35 Men's Finals
Phil Willoughby (Nga Puhi), 1, Shaun Coffey (Ngati Ruahine), 2, Nick Rowe (Ngati Porou), 3, Te-Raihe Rutene (Waikato), 4

Hyundai Longboard Final

Daniel Kereopa (Tainui), 1, James Atutahi (Te Arawa), 2, Marty Matenga (Tainui), 3, Pipi Ngaia (Teenui), 4

Gil Keren: yes, Israelis surf

If you don’t think Israel, Sweden, Venezuela, Great Britain, Tahiti, Chile, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany, Puerto Rico or Canada are surfing nations, think again. On day four of the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games Presented by Amarok of Volkswagen, each of these countries still had surfers advancing in Punta Hermosa Peru’s big, shifting 6 to 10 foot faces, sometimes besting the top surfing nations in the process.

At the start of the day 16 nations were tied in a statistical dead heat, vying for the top slot. With 31 international teams competing at the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games in Peru, a bevy of historical surfing powerhouses fall into their usual form. The Americans, Australians, South Africans and Brazilians have flexed their muscles with standout performances by Drew Courtney (AUS) Ben Bourgeois (USA) Peterson Crisanto (BRZ) and Casey Grant (RSA).

But what has proved to be equally impressive, the South American teams have shown that when surfing’s version of the Olympics comes to their own continent, they’ll fight tooth and nail for every heat.

At the cusp of the South American contingency, the Chilean team has proven to be one of the most dynamic. After finishing 19th at last year’s ISA Games in Costa Rica, the Chilean squad has dropped jaws time and again. After bowing out of the open round, Chile’s Guillermo Satt has put on a blistering showing in the repercharge round with some of the smoothest, most vertical, and rail-to-rail surfing of the event. After his performances over the past few days, people are quickly taking notice not only of Satt, but the remarkable team Chile has produced as a whole.

In addition, the Argentinean squad has also showed that they’re able to hold their own against the world’s best with sold showings by Santiago Muniz. But some of the most remarkable South American surfing of the event came from the Peruvian team front-lined by Cristobal de Col, Gabriel Villaran and Matias Mulanovich.

All three Peruvian surfers have gone toe-to-toe with some of the world’s most adept surfers and come out smiling time and again. Today, they continued to put on impressive showings where they squeaked through their Round 3 Open heats and into the next round.

Venezuela, a dark horse in the event, had 3 major wins today, taking advantage of the 8 to 10 foot faces of the shifting pointbreak waves.

"We have been training hard and I believe that was key to our wins today,” said Jesus Chacon. Added winner Francisco Bellorin, “I was lucky to find the best waves and do maneuvers well on them. The competitors were good, but my wave selection was the major factor.”

The Latin Americans were far from the only outstanding performers in the big Peruvian surf:

With spectators packing the beach front bleachers, Steve Pierson from Tahiti racked up a huge upset against powerhouse Australia. Micah Lester from the United Kingdom continued his remarkable string of victories as if he’d been surfing Hawaiian reefs all his life.

Perhaps the standout surfer of the day was South African Team Captain Greg Emslie. Unable to find the needed waves in his heat Friday, he had to do battle in the repercharge heat today.

“It’s very tough out there, said South African Coach Graham Hines. “But we South Africans love a good fight. When our backs are against the wall, we thrive!”

Emslie redeemed himself in Repercharge Round 2 winning his heat decisively; in fact he won two critical heats today, posting some of the highest scores of the contest. It was a crucial comeback to keep the Springbok dream alive.

“That was a serious demonstration of high performance surfing,” said Adam Replogle Billabong resident pro and one of the contest announcers, after Emslie’s tour de force exhibition. “It was textbook technique coupled with knowledge and confidence.”

Despite not having the surfing pedigree as some of the other teams, part of the ISA World Surfing Games soul is made including countries not typically considered surfing nations. The Germans, Swiss and Swedish teams have all fielded surfers in this year’s games. Sweden’s Freddie Meadows surfed with such heart and soul, that even the locals were cheering him on.

Tiny landlocked Switzerland couldn’t advance this year, but were at no loss for enthusiasm. “We were so happy to be here,” said Martin Muller, a Swiss team member. “The international level of surfing just keeps going up and up and up. Sometimes it is a bit intimidating!”

Although they may not have made a full run for the podium, their inclusion in the Games signals the growing roots of competitive surfing are taking hold.

But unexpected wins from complete dark horses were still a frequent result in the repercharge heats. Spain got all 3 of their men through, and surprise chargers like Tahiti and 3 members of the Costa Rica Team also qualified. Bombshell surprise Mexico blasted through 2 repercharges and is still fighting to make the next round. “The deciding factor for me was doing some really big maneuvers” said Angelo Lozano, after the heat. “Earlier I was falling off when I tried them, but in this heat I went big and landed them!”

Alejandro Moreda whose team had two advances today summed up everyone’s feeling on the fourth day with this comment:

“Puerto Rico is very happy to be here! It makes me happy to be back in an ISA event because we feel so proud to represent our country. Here you feel patriotism of the strongest form. I travel a lot on the WQS and the World Surfing Games is a much more personal event. I am stoked that we all are close, surfing for our homelands and flying our flags.”

Hodei Collazo: a Spanish navigator

Hodei Collazo (Zarautz, EUK) 26, won the ASP 6-Star Quiksilver Pro Portugal over good friend, Gony Zubizarreta (Vigo, ESP) 25, in a high scoring, tight final to claim his maiden Star-Series victory at the main event site of Ribeira D’Ilhas.

Opening his account with an 8.50 out of ten and then backing it up with an 8.17, Collazo had his opponent in a combination situation early in the battle and looked to be on his way to a comfortable win. Zubizarreta had other ideas and answered back with an 8.90, to get back in the fight with five minutes remaining.

Without priority, Collazo had to watch on as Zubizarreta played his last card on his last wave in the final minute. Coming up short by the nearest of margins, a mere 0.20 of a point, the Quiksilver Pro Portugal 2010 title was in the grasp of an emotional Collazo.

“This is an amazing feeling and I can’t describe how it feels to win an event like this. I have never gone further than the quarters, so to be in the final with my best friend and to win it is the best thing that has happened to me.”

Taking out World Tour campaigner, Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the quarter-finals, Collazo grew in confidence and knew that this was his moment.

“I have had so much support from all the people here and also from all the people at home. It is really special and I want to say thanks to all of them for their support. I have taken the whole event heat by heat and tried not to think about my opponents and just focus on my surfing and the work ahead to be done.”

In a somewhat different approach to such a major final, Collazo explains their pre-final preparations.

“It was a different final because we tossed a coin to see who would have the first wave. Normally you are really stressed and earlier there was a lot of pressure in the quarters and the semis but in the final we were talking and looking back to the beach amazed at all the people who had come down to watch us.”

Runner-up, Gony Zubizarreta was on a roll this morning after eliminating ASP Dream Tour surfer and local favorite Tiago Pires (PRT) in the quarter-finals with another come from behind performance. Smashing out a 9.87, the highest single wave score of the event, Zubizarreta threatened to go all the way.

“The heat against Tiago was amazing. I managed to catch the bomb and get that score which got me back into the heat. For me it was an honor to be up against him at his home break and to win that heat was really special.”

In the final, Zubizarreta managed to claw his way back to create a dramatic final stage to the 40-minute clash. With no remorse, Zubizarreta was pleased with his ‘never say die’ attitude.

“I didn’t surf so well at the beginning and then I got that good one so I thought I was still able to get another one. The last wave came and I surfed the best I could but it was close. I think the judge’s decision in the end was correct. It was close and I am very happy for Hodei.”

Leonardo Neves (Saquarema, BRA) 30, finished in equal third to achieve his best result in Europe this year. Coming up against an inform Hodei Collazo, the Brazilian made a crucial error losing priority and had to stand by and watch as the win escaped from his grasp.

“I ended up losing priority with a 5.00 point ride and I should have stayed out the back and waited a few minutes more because I had to watch the 8.00 point ride of Hodei. I think that wave marked the difference in the heat because it was a wave with more potential and that was the difference.”

More at home in more powerful conditions, Neves has concentrated on his small wave surfing and is starting to see results. Equipment changes as well as technical adjustments to his surfing are the reasons for this improvement.

“This has been a contest in small waves which has always been difficult for me. Bigger waves are a lot easier for me. So now I have a specific board for small waves that is going really well. Each time my results are getting better.”

Now moving on to further events to be held in the Canary Islands, Neves feels that his momentum is pushing him towards an even bigger result in the near future.

“I am having a good run at the moment with many quarter-final finishes and now a semi-final so let’s hope a final is coming up soon for me in the next events in the Canary Islands.”

Marc Lacomare (Capbreton, FRA) 20, also finishing equal third, continued with his consistent results achieved throughout the entire year in Europe including a win at the 5-Star Newquay event. Having no luck in finding any rhythm and surfing on his backhand in the tricky conditions, Lacomare had to admit that some errors on his part cost him the victory.

“He (Zubizarreta) has been surfing amazing since the start of the contest so it was a tough heat. Maybe I made a couple of mistakes in that heat but I am still happy with a semi-final result.”

Remaining a clear leader on the ASP European Men’s rankings and with two stops remaining on the circuit, Lacomare is looking strong to back up his 2009 ASP Europe Junior title.

“I am really happy with my year and hopefully I can take out the European title after the Canary events and if not I am just really happy with the results I have done this summer.”

Quiksilver Pro Portugal Final Result
Hodei Collazo (EUK) 16.67 Def. Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 16.47