23-Apr-2012 10:54 a.m.

Hyundai Tour 2012

 

The popular NZ series formerly known as the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour officially shortened its name this year.  Whether this is a reflection of the burgeoning field of Stand Up Paddlers now battling it out on the waves, or a clever tactic to keep the sponsor’s name in media abbreviations of the popular surfing tour, whatever the motivation, it comes at a time when New Zealand Stand Up Paddle surfing is showing turbo-charged growth in both participation and skill. 

For many stand up paddlers, the Hyundai Tour is their first experience of a surf event.  The laid back, social, family beach vibe long associated with long-boarding, combined with a healthy dose of competition on the water, makes the 5-stop tour a must on every SUP calendar.

Travelling some of New Zealand’s most renowned breaks over the hottest two months of the kiwi summer, the Hyundai Tour is often touted by international participants as one of the most professionally run and hospitable surfing events in the world.  The 2012 tour travelled to Raglan, Piha, Sandy Bay and Mount Maunganui this season, concluding at Port Waikato in early March.

Stand Up Paddling has been one of the seven divisions contested on the tour for three years now, and has now grown to the point of requiring a trials heat to whittle down the field to 24 surfers before the four elimination rounds.  Also continuing at each event since its 2011 introduction is the hugely popular and gnarly SUP surf race, King of the Waves.  The race follows the Battle of the Paddle format of charging in and out through the shore break around a set of buoys, with a short sand-run between laps and to finish.  The carnage is a true crowd pleaser, and with timing of the sets playing a critical part, it really is anyone’s race.  As contender Annabel Anderson says; “He (or she) who stays on their board, wins the race.”

Long-time friends and surf-rivals Daniel Kereopa and Shayne Baxter dominate the surf contest, and in true all-round waterman form, are also podium contenders in the race.

Self-titled “SUP Ninja” Baxter has played bridesmaid to tour champion Kereopa for the past three years, but proved himself in fighting form this year, claiming the most prestigious event on the Hyundai Tour, the 50th Annual NZ National Surfing Championships at Piha.

“You can only do what the waves allow you to do, especially in a heat situation, where you’ve got 20 minutes to perform and see what the ocean’s throwing at you,” says Baxter, who has been a ‘Christchurch refugee’ since losing his home to the earthquake there in February 2011.

“Its pretty hard to beat Daniel.  He’s NZs best waterman at the moment and will stay that way for a long time,” muses Baxter.

“We’ve grown up with each other (I’m from the South Island and he’s from the North Island) and we’ve competed against each other since we were little kids, and it’s great.  He’s helping push me in what I want to do and as long as we can keep doing what we’re doing and stay healthy, we can show the kids that this is the standard for New Zealand.  It’s great that there’s two Maori boys up there.”

Baxter (32) played rugby league for Canterbury from age 5 to 17.  “The sporting vein runs strong in our family.  Rugby league was winter-time, and growing up by the beach, surfing was summer time.  That’s what got me into surfing and being a waterman,” says the Maori carver and tattooist, who began Stand Up Paddling in 2003. 

“I’d been surfing and doing waka ama, so it just seemed perfect for me.  I think the hoe (paddle) has a great significance to being a waterman. Most people just see stand up paddle as a bit of fibreglass or as a sport, but for me the origins have come from traditional indigenous carving, using the adze or the tuki.  Being a carver you make a lot of different weapons, and you’ve got to know how they’re gonna fly, so carving and using these weapons has made a great impact on my stand up paddling,” admits Baxter, who also has a strong martial arts background.

“When I had the chance to go on the Stand Up World Tour in 2011 I basically turned my whole front yard into the Shao Lin temple and created ‘SUP Kung Fu’ - breaking it down inch by inch and working out each angle and its effect on the water.  The greatest thing is, like Bruce Lee says, to be like water.  Find that serenity with water, and be like water.”

Baxter’s aggressive surfing style sees him attacking the waves with an array of fast, sharp manouevres, switching it up with paddle use and often throwing in a 360 in the whitewash to finish off a wave.

He conditions his body to perform by using practise paddles weighing over 20kgs and home-invented surf machines and training tools.

“I think cross-training is very important if you want to get yourself up to an optimum level. Looking at biomechanics and looking at your craft, every angle you can take to create that edge is important.  You’ve got to keep it fresh.”

2012 Tour stops

Raglan

Manu Bay is a world-renowned, perfect left-hand point break.  Usually super-crowded, the opportunity to surf your pick of waves with just three other surfers on the water makes this the best value event on the tour.  Solid 2-3ft for the 2012 comp.

Piha

A rugged black sand West Coast beach break, with really strong rips and cliffs at each end causing a lot of movement in the water and chop coming in from all different angles.  Piha is gnarly and can be a hard wave to read.  This year solid 4ft earlier in the week.  Finals day 2ft.

Sandy Bay

The most scenic location on the tour, no phone or internet coverage, no shops, just free camping at one end of the golden sand beach.  Predominantly a right and left-hander from each side of the bay, it also works on the tides.  Solid 20 knot + onshore breeze the whole weekend this year, but it still handled.

Tay Street

Straight beach break with an artificial reef out the back.  Needs more of a peakier north/north east angle swell to work well.  Great location and venue, cool town.  This year only 1-2ft swell but tons of sunshine.

Port Waikato

Wild West Coast again, with reef structures within the beach that create rips and bars.  Usually bigger swell and more of a left-hand beach break.

Overall Results Hyundai Tour 2012

Stand Up Paddleboard Top 5

1, Daniel Kereopa (Rag)
2, Shayne Baxter (ChCh)
3, Armie Armstrong (Rag)
4, Karlos Aarsen (Whmata)
5, Sean Hovell (Gis)

Stand Up Paddlboard King of the Waves Race Top 5
1, Armie Armstrong (Rag)
2, Jeremy Stephenson (Auck)
3, Sean Hovell (Gis)
4, Shayne Baxter (ChCh)
5, Daniel Kereopa (Rag)


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