As the sun attempts to break through what seems to be the never ending cloud of summer, the first national surfing event kicks off this weekend marking a three month span of nationwide summer surfing events.
The 2012 Hyundai Tour ventures to Manu Bay, Raglan for the first of five stops this season. The event, starting Saturday morning, will play host to over one hundred surfers in what is forecast to be a clean new swell that builds from Friday afternoon through into the weekend.
Raglan's long left-hand point break of Manu Bay will be a welcome return to quality waves for the Hyundai Tour which has been predominantly held in beach break conditions around New Zealand over the last six years. This weekend will be the first time the tour has made it to Raglan.
Manu Bay is the prime surfing venue of New Zealand and has been the location for several international surfing events including the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Longboard Championship in 2004.
Raglan and national surfing icon Daniel Kereopa will compete in the event on his Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Board this weekend alongside a number of his local friends. Kereopa who rides every watercraft available, made the most of the first-rate swell this week albeit not always on the SUP.
"I have been surfing everything this week from my shortboard to the SUP, I even took out a bodyboard the other morning" Kereopa said. The SUP Division, of which Kereopa is the defending champion, boasts a draw almost the size of the premier Open Men's Division where the country's top longboarders will do battle for the Hyundai Tour title.
Auckland surfer Thomas Kibblewhite (Rodney) will lead the pack as the number one seed and will be followed closely by New Zealand representatives Phil Morris (Auck) and Matt Cockayne (Auck) as well as Ant McColl (Mnt) and Dylan Barnfield (Ohope).
The only surfer of the five to have taken out the overall Hyundai Tour title is the youngest of all - Dylan Barnfield who claimed the title in 2010.
The five surfers will also have to watch out for performances from the likes of 2009 Tour winner Michael Burling who has recently moved to Hamilton. Burling always puts in a dominant performance when competing and will enjoy the chance to surf his new home break at this event.
The 2012 Open Men's Division Tour winner receives an all expenses paid trip to Australia and entry into the Australian Longboard Open - one of the three ASP LQS events held in the region. The prize was claimed by Australian Josh Constable in 2011. However Constable is absent from the draw this weekend and is ineligible to compete in the Hyundai National Championships starting next weekend meaning a Tour win is more than likely to go to a Kiwi surfer this year.
Along with championing the top level of surfing, the Hyundai Tour also hunts out the best surfing family in New Zealand each year. All events where two or more family members take part, they get an entry into the draw to win New Zealand's most popular diesel family wagon, the Santa Fe, for a year at the end of the season. This further promotes the fantastic family atmosphere that surfing and the Hyundai Tour is renowned for.
The Hyundai Tour also brings the community together with Raglan's Point Boardriders the benefactor of all fundraising through the longboard raffles and money raised from the BBQ on site. The local fire brigade receives a donation as part of Hyundai's continual drive to touch all communities that they visit.
Multi award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines returns for a second year partnering with Hyundai and Surfing New Zealand to help clean up the surrounding beaches of each event location. The Sustainable Coastlines headquarters will be based at Manu Bay all weekend.
The aim is to get groups of volunteers together and head off around the Raglan coastline equipped with gear to collect marine trash starting at 12:00pm on Saturday. "Areas like the lagoon inside the break at Indicators, the main beach and even Ruapuke Beach have oceanic rubbish to remove" said Sustainable Coastlines Co Founder Sam Judd. "We are looking forward to again providing a fun educational experience alongside the tour" he said.
Surfing New Zealand CEO Greg Townsend says he is stoked to get the summer underway this weekend.
"There is not a better place to start the events season than Raglan and it looks like the swell is supposed to build throughout the weekend which will provide some excellent conditions for New Zealand's top longboarders" Townsend said.
Seven divisions are contested on the tour - Open Men, Women, Junior Men (Under 18), Over 40, Over 50 and Stand Up Paddleboarding and the SUP Race. Overall the Hyundai Tour boasts $20,000 in prize money.
The 2012 Hyundai Tour travels to Raglan, Piha, Sandy Bay and Mount Maunganui before the season concludes at Port Waikato in early March.
The complete calendar of events for the 2012 Hyundai Tour follows:
Hyundai Tour Event 1, 7-8 January, Raglan (4-star)
Hyundai Tour Event 2, 15-21 January, Piha (5-star) - National Championships
Hyundai Tour Event 3, 3-6 February, Sandy Bay (SNZ 6-star / ASP LQS 1-star)
Hyundai Tour Event 4, 18-19 February, Mount Maunganui (4-star)
Hyundai Tour Event 5, 2-3 March, Port Waikato (6-star)