Matt Wilkinson: from the Australian Copacabana

ASP Dream Tour surfer Matt Wilkinson (Copacabana, AUS), 22, won the ASP Prime O’Neill Cold Water Classic California over young Hawaiian Tonino Benson (Kailua, HI), 20, in tricky two-to-four foot (1 metre) conditions at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California.

Wilkinson, who is currently competing on his rookie year on the ASP World Tour, ventured to the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California in search of the valuable ratings points on offer at the ASP Prime event to contribute to his ASP World Ranking.

The progressive goofy-footer launched out to a quick start in his bout against the young Hawaiian, blasting a solid 7 point ride. Benson quickly matched the Aussie’s score, but Wilkinson notched a backup score of 6.67, to take out the win after a week of impressive backhand surfing at Steamer Lane.

“I’m so stoked, I haven’t won a contest in a long time,” Wilkinson said. “It’s been a long day, but I guess when it’s cold like this I guess you don’t get too buggered. I kept enough energy for the final and just got over the edge, so I’m stoked. I love surfing on my backhand and have always felt I’m stronger backside, I’m just stoked to have won this contest.”

Wilkinson, who is currently sitting in the No. 27 position on the ASP Dream Tour, was elated to win the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, which will substantially boost his ASP World Ranking.

“This is definitely a good result for my World Ranking going into the rest of the year,” Wilkinson said. “I’m towards the back of the ratings on the World Tour and I was getting a little bit worried about the end of the year and I don’t know, I’m definitely stoked with this.”

Wilkinson will also carry the confidence from his massive win this week to the upcoming Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico, where he will return to battle in elite ASP World Tour competition.

“This win is definitely good for the confidence,” Wilkinson said. “It’s the first time I’ve won in ages and it’s got me on a high so hopefully I can keep the ball going and make some heats in Puerto Rico.”

Benson was another young talent to shine on his backhand at Steamer Lane. The lightning-fast goofy-footer eliminated and impressive list of names including 2009 O’Neill Cold Water Classic Champion Nathan Yeomans (San Clemente, CA), 29, prodigy Kolohe Andino (San Clemente, CA), 16, and Australian Yadin Nicol (Margaret River, AUS), 24, before falling to Wilkinson in the final.

“That was kind of a tough heat for me,” Benson said. “I just couldn’t find a second wave and it cost me. It’s okay. I’m stoked. It’s a good result for me. I just came off of an injury, so I’m really happy that I made the final.”

Nat Young (Santa Cruz, CA), 19, who was a standout throughout the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, detonated the day’s highest heat-total of 15.36 out of 20 in his Quarterfinals matchup, but was unable to find a rhythm in his wave-starved Semifinals heat against Matt Wilkinson at his local break of Steamer Lane and finished equal 3rd overall.

“The waves were terrible and I fell on all of my waves,” Young said. “I’m pretty bummed. It’s a good result, but I just wish the waves were a little better.”

Billy Stairmand (Raglan, NZL), 21, snagged the day’s highest single-wave score of an 8.17 out of 10 with a variety of committed forehand fins-free turns and powerful rail-carves in his Quarterfinal heat victory, but earned an interference in the opening seconds of his Semifinals bout and was unable to recover. Stairmand finished equal 3rd overall.

“The conditions went pretty much flat and the tide has dropped out,” Stairmand said. “I was pretty unlucky to get an interference at the start of that heat, but congratulations to Tonino (Benson) he was ripping.”

The impressive result posted by the young Kiwi will substantially help his cause towards his ASP World Ranking.

“Getting 3rd here is better than my win at the 6-Star,” Stairmand said. “It’s good to win a bit of money to help with the travel as well.”

Shaun Cansdell (AUS), 27, who finished equal 25th in the O’Neill Cold Water Classic California, took top honors in the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Series to win the $50,000 prize purse for finishing first in the five-event series after Dion Atkinson failed to advance out of his Round of 16 heat this morning and was at a loss for words after winning the additional prize money.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Cansdell said. “I’m really stoked to have ended up winning the Cold Water Series. I’m at a loss for words.”

O’Neill Cold Water Classic California Final Result:

1 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.67
2 – Tonino Benson (HAW) 12.53

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.”