Academy chuffed as both prospects and products star at surfing nationals

Raglan Surf Academy is excited at the prospect of “fostering” the sporting careers of three young guns who starred at last week’s national surfing championships, held along the Gisborne coastline in conditions described as pretty contestable.

Longtime academy co-teacher Larry Fisher – who himself won a couple of age-group thirds in an event which attracted 300 entries all up – says 13-year-old Kora Cooper was the “big standout” for Raglan with a first and two second placings across three divisions.

Kora is set to join the academy next year – 2019 – along with two other young Raglan up-and-comers, Jayden Willoughby and Brie Bennett. The trio will be in year 11 at Raglan Area School by then and Larry says “we are looking forward to fostering them in the academy”.

Both Kora and Brie won their respective under-16 divisions – and were also runners-up in the under-18s – while Jayden took the under-14 boys title just ahead of Kora. Another young local, Navryn Malone, was fourth in the same division.

Founding surf academy teacher Deane Hishon confirmed that “loads of kids” who were going through or had completed the academy did well at the nationals.

He cited the performances of Conor McLennan, who won the under-18s; ex-students Levi Stewart and Paul Moretti, third and fourth respectively in the open finals; Jack Lee, who came third in the under-16 final; and Raiha Ensor, who claimed the open women’s title in “dramatic” fashion.

Meanwhile the “old guys” from Raglan fared well too, says Deane, who didn’t get to the nationals himself because of a shoulder injury.

Larry’s two thirds in his over-30 divisions were bested by Chris Malone, who placed both second and third in his. Meanwhile Geoff Hutchison won the over-50s and picked up a third in the over- 45s.

Raglan also claimed double finalists in the stand-up paddleboard divisions, with surfing legend Daniel Kereopa reclaiming the men’s title and Renee Davenport finishing fourth in the women’s.

But there were some big disappointments, too, for Raglan at the nationals.

In one of the premier contests, the open men’s division, a day of major upsets early in the competition saw the demise of both five-time winner and defending champion Billy Stairmand and last year’s runner-up Taylor Hutchison.

Billy was “really unlucky”, says Deane, needing a 4.9 to continue into the semifinals but scoring a 4.7.

Another disappointment was that Raglan’s Point Boardriders, who went into the event as defending club champions, had the national title snatched from them by Gisborne Boardriders. The hosts’ Ricardo Christie sealed things when he took out the open men’s final last Saturday, the final day of competition.

Conditions at the week-long nationals were described as generally “solid and clean”, with the last two days predominantly a left-hand break which Deane says “suited our young stars”.                       

Edith Symes