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SURF LIFESAVING

Internationals boost surf festival opener
Saturday 29 January 2011, 12:46PM
By Surf Life Saving New Zealand
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MT MAUNGANUI

A strong international contingent will boost the Northern Regional surf lifesaving championships in Mount Maunganui this weekend.

Traditionally one of the biggest carnivals of the season, the NRCs will also double as the opening event in the nine-day Festival of Surf Sports.

With the three-test DHL International Surf Challenge - featuring national teams from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan and Great Britain - starting on Monday, many overseas competitors will be using the NRCs to get used to the Mount conditions.

They're conditions expected to provide a huge challenge, with the tail end of former Tropical Cyclone Wilma passing over the North Island in the early hours of Saturday, providing a decent kick to the East Coast swell.

That's caused plenty of nerves among the Canadian team - who arrived in Tauranga  this week - with most team members having little experience in surf conditions.

"The best analogy I can find would be lining up a New Zealand ice hockey team to compete against some of the best Canadian teams," Martin Leprohon, high performance manager for Lifesaving Canada, said. "We are happy to do it for the love of the sport and to get some valuable exposure to our younger athletes."

Leading the Canadian charge will be Los Angeles-based Mike Zitta, at 34 the most experienced athlete in the team. Ottawa's James Verreault has also been training and competing with the Mairangi Bay club in Auckland over summer. The Great Britain surf boat crew will also compete while several  French competitors have also entered.

Both the 12-strong New Zealand senior team - led by ironmen Mike Janes and Daniel Moodie - and the development team will also compete, albeit with a reduced schedule ahead of the test series.

Bay of Plenty's Papamoa club go into the NRCs as defending champions, after last year's carnival was hit by a  storm with Papamoa leading halfway through the second day.




The surf boats battling on a storm-hit second day at last year's NRCs CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand



The surf boats battling on a storm-hit second day at last year's NRCs CREDIT: Surfing New Zealand Inc



The surf boats battling on a storm-hit second day at last year's NRCs CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand






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