Tom Lee/Fairfax NZ
Wayne Simeon of Mailangi Bay sprints to the finish at the Surfboat Spectacular hosted by Whangamata Surf Club.
The waves were modest, but some of the country’s best lifeguards and bodies who took part in surfing in Whangamata on Monday were anything but swimming attire.
For the annual Unichem Surf Boat Spectacular, 14 clubs from across the North Island converged on the white sands of Whangamata, where gentle northwesterly winds and 0.5-metre waves set the stage for a fierce race.
Whangamata had a carnival-like atmosphere as club supporters spread along Main Beach cheering on the 38 crew members.
The weather was overcast with occasional showers, but it didn’t seem to bother competitors in skimpy racing attire.
For starters, the backside display can be a little confusing, but event manager Soren Nielsen said there’s a reason behind the meat display.
“The seats on the boat don’t move, so the rowers apply cream and slide it over the plastic seats. The togs don’t slide across the seats, so you can see people pulling on the togs.”
In the absence of big waves, some quick racing took place as crews had a short task of navigating the crashing waves before circling a buoy 350 meters offshore.
From there the race back to the beach continued, with each boat crew dashing on foot to the finish line.
Nielsen said flat conditions meant crews with great fitness excelled.
“Sometimes when there are big waves, the best teams come last. But today it’s all about how fit the teams are.”
Competing in the men’s division of the Open were the under-23 crew from the Trust Waikato Whangamata Surf Lifesaving Club.
The Whangamata crew represent New Zealand in the Under-23 competition.
Whangamata Under-23 crew member Sam Stockley, 20, said racing with older crews provided strong competition for the team.
The bonus was that we were able to beat some of the more experienced hands.
“I love sports, so why don’t you? You can go to different beaches, hang out with other rowers and surfing lifeguards, and tackle some big waves. “
Stockley enjoyed competing in big surf, but said his team tends to perform better in flatter waters.
“A lot of things can go wrong when the waves get bigger.”
The winning crews at Whangamata are Women Under 19: Orewa SLSC, Men Under 19: Sunset LS, Women Under 23: Muriwai LS, Men Under 23: Orewa SLSC, Open Women: Muriwai LS, Men’s Open: Paekakaliki SL, and Men’s Masters. : Fitzroy SLSC.