AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The waka ama discipline of The Ultimate Waterman driven by Subaru was completed with a neck and neck finish determining the race which was finally clinched by Danny Ching (USA) over the weekend on Saturday, March 14th.
The first discipline of the Ultimate Waterman was a 17km race that stretched from Arkles Bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula all the way down to Takapuna Beach. The course rounded the famous Hawaiian Hokule’a Canoe before the athletes ran up the beach to the finish line. Danny Ching finished eighteen seconds ahead of Tahitian Georges Cronsteadt, SIC Maui athlete. Ching and Cronsteadt both selected the race as their ‘double whammy’ discipline meaning that they earned double points for this round and both take a healthy early lead in the eight day event.
Ching, a professional OC1 canoe racer, commented that the course was super tough with limited chances to take advantage of any small gains against his opponents. “We had wind coming over our left shoulder which is the opposite to what we are used to,” said Ching. “We were basically having to battle up wind for the first half of the race before coming down-wind but what happened is the up-wind was a little easier as we had a little current and push down the coast. Then the down-wind was actually hard, the current was against us and we had a cross wind in our faces making it even more tiring. It really turned into a knock-down, drag-out for all,” he added.
Ching finished with a time of 1:23:23, 18 seconds clear of Cronsteadt. “I saw Georges off the line and we separated from the field early. Toward the end I got him on a course change and I am almost positive that gave me the small lead at the end” said Ching of the eighteen second winning margin.
Cronsteadt admitted the double points offering gave him extra drive to perform well. “Yes it was a very close race but I think I chose the wrong way, the wrong line, but Danny is strong also. With this discipline being the double whammy, it is why we both tried hard and stayed together and pushed with the lead going back and forth all the way to the finish because it was worth a lot of points to us,” said Cronsteadt.
Placing third in the race was Starboard SUP athlete Connor Baxter (HAW), nine minutes off the pace but happy to take third and be the first athlete to finish that does not have a strong waka ama background. Baxter led fellow Hawaiian and Naish SUP athlete Kai Lenny home and the two were followed by New Zealand competitor Daniel Kereopa. Kereopa was disappointed with his performance after taking an outside line which ended up slower than the race line that other paddlers took closer to shore.
“I stuck to a game plan that ended up slightly wrong. I had Mark (Visser) on my tail the whole race so I was under pressure to finish ahead of him” said Kereopa. Visser placed sixth ahead of Manoa Drollet (TAH) in seventh.
The eighth competitor Kala Alexander (HAW) was unable to compete in the first discipline due to travel delays and arrived in the country Sunday.
Tahitian Manoa Drollet won the 2nd discipline scoring tubes like this. | Photo courtesy: The Ultimate Waterman
Cyclone Pam delivered flawless waves on the Coromandel Peninsula today (Monday 16th February) with Tahitian surfer Manoa Drollet claiming the second discipline contested in The Ultimate Waterman driven by Subaru – the shortboard division.
The eight athletes enjoyed perfect 2.0m tubes at an isolated beach in the northern Coromandel that requires a cyclone with intensity such as Pam to break. The day started out with a trip south from Auckland in driving rain and gale winds. Upon reaching the East Coast it was evident that cyclone had delivered a massive swell to the region.
After several surf checks up and down the coast, assessing conditions and trying to maximize the size of the swell, a decision was made to hold the shortboard division at Otama which had the best conditions on offer. Drollet started slowly in the two-hour eight-man heat but 30 minutes in the Tahitian dropped into a perfect righthand barrel for a 9.0 point ride. Paddling out one minute later he latched onto another score to take a healthy lead.
However, it was at the midway mark that he stamped his authority on the day with another excellent 8.5 point ride which was enough to clinch the discipline, his double whammy meaning double points. As a result of the win, Drollet joins Danny Ching (USA) at the front of the pack after two of six disciplines contested. “I had a great day out there, I am just stoked to win a division. The barrels today were so fun and all the guys got some great waves. I am just happy to be here in New Zealand with all the guys, thanks for having me,” said Drollet as he accepted his victory in front of his peers.
Mark Visser came in a close 2nd place scoring a perfect 10 in the surf. | Photo courtesy: The Ultimate Waterman
Australian Mark Visser (Sunshine Coast) challenged Drollet for the lead with the day’s only perfect ten point ride. Visser dropped into a rare left-hander and emerged from the barrel mere meters from the sand. Another fantastic barrel saw Visser come up just short of Drollet but a second placing in his double whammy division saw him jump to third overall on the rankings.
Kai Lenny (HAW) remained consistent with his performances today placing third just ahead of local surfer Daniel Kereopa (NZL) in fourth. Both surfers took a while to find their feet in the line up but got busy in the late stages to climb up the rankings. Kereopa took the heaviest wipeout of the day going over the falls and having his board bash him in the lip splitting it open. Hawaiian legend Kala Alexander started the final in style taking an early lead but ultimately finished in fifth place ahead of Connor Baxter (HAW) in sixth, Danny Ching (USA) in seventh and Georges Cronsteadt (TAH) in eighth. With the cyclone tracking further south toward the South Island a decision has been made to mobilize to the Otago region first thing on Tuesday. It is anticipated that Cyclone Pam will deliver more excellent conditions for our international surfers. Four more divisions are yet to be contested – stand up paddle board surfing, longboarding, big wave surfing and stand up paddle board racing.
Please see below for overall points after two of six disciplines.
1= Danny Ching (USA), 2,528*1
1= Manoa Drollet (TAH), 2,528*
3. Mark Visser (AUS), 2,275*
4. Georges Cronsteadt (TAH), 2,170*
5. Kai Lenny (HAW), 1,400
6. Connor Baxter (HAW), 1,285
7. Daniel Kereopa (NZL), 1,253
8. Kala Alexander (HAW), 1,033
*Denotes double whammy division completed
To learn more about The Ultimate Waterman and all the athletes competing this year, head to their website.