The Hyundai National Championships celebrates a monumental milestone in 2012 with the fiftieth edition of the event taking place at Piha Beach, Auckland.
The all encompassing seven day event will run from the 15th - 21st of January.
The Hyundai National Championships were first held in 1963 when they took place at Mount Maunganui. In its infancy, the event comprised Open Men's and Women's as well as Under 18 Men's divisions only. Since then it has grown to comprise a colossal 23 divisions across all disciplines and the 2012 edition will crown New Zealand's 500th national champion.
"It is fitting to have the fiftieth edition of the event at Piha" commented Greg Townsend. While it is not the birth place of the National Championships, Piha is regarded as the first beach to see the modern surfboard ridden after American's Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner travelled to New Zealand in the late 1950s. Piha is also one of the country's most famous surf destinations" added Townsend.
Fast forward to the current day and the Hyundai National Championships will see New Zealand's current crop of elite surfers do battle in the West Coast waves and certainly on equipment a lot different to that ridden back in the 50s.
Defending Open Men's Champion Jay Quinn (Gis) will be out to attain his third Open Men's Division title and go one step closer to his brother Maz who has been stranded on four titles since 2006.
Quinn is currently residing in Australia and competing on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour alongside New Zealand's highest ranked surfer Richard Christie (Mah).
Both Quinn and Christie are locked in a tussle to break into the top 32 surfers in the world and a chance to compete on the big stage with the best in the world. To achieve that, the two surfers will need several excellent results before the end of the year to bridge the 16 and 14 places respectively on the ASP rankings from where they currently stand.
Meanwhile defending Open Women's Champion Airini Mason (Chch) will be back to defend her title at Piha. Piha was the location of the barnstorming fourteen year old Mason back in 2004 where she won both the Open Women's and Under 16 Women's Divisions before going on to compete internationally. Now Mason has put her competitive career on the back burner and is studying at Canterbury University but will look to add another New Zealand title to her long list of achievements.
Airini's younger sister Sarah (Gis) is likely to compete at the National Championships after she narrowly missed qualification for the ASP World Tour for 2012. Mason will use the event as a build up toward her 2012 international campaign.
100% Kiwi owned Hyundai New Zealand has continued to be the main supporter and title sponsor of the National Champs for the eighth straight year as part of their long standing partnership with surfing in New Zealand. Combined with the Nationals, Hyundai New Zealand also focus their efforts on the longboarding and stand up paddle boarding areas of the sport as part of the Hyundai Tour. Hyundai New Zealand have worked the different elements of the Hyundai Tour series to create inclusive and family friendly events.
Tom Ruddenklau Hyundai New Zealand's Chief Operating Officer states "We are excited to be involved with the Hyundai National Championship again in 2012. We are particularly proud this year given the fact that the event has reached the 50 year milestone which is an outstanding achievement. There is some great activity planned and it would be outstanding to see everyone down at Piha to join us in celebration of 50 years of this iconic Kiwi event".
The longboard divisions at the National Championships will be contested as the second of five events on the Hyundai Tour. Interest continues to grow around the tour with surfers now travelling from abroad to compete here in New Zealand. However the Hyundai National Championships caters for New Zealand residents and citizens only ensuring that this prestigious title is contested against only New Zealand's best.
Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck) shrugged off a long standing bridesmaid tag in 2011 winning the Open Longboard Division when it was contested at Dunedin. The well received win set Kibblewhite up as the highest placed Kiwi on the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour in 2011 finishing in second behind Australian Josh Constable.
The event is the first event of the New Zealand Pro Series and second of five on the 2012 Hyundai Tour.
It will be the ninth time the event has been held at Piha. The Hyundai National Surfing Championships is the most prestigious domestic surfing event in New Zealand.
Twenty three national titles will go up for grabs at the Hyundai National Championships. As well as the premier Open Men's and Open Women's Divisions, there will be a further 17 divisions comprising of age groups from Under 14 through to Over 50s and also longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard, Bodyboard and Kneeboard disciplines.
Set out below are the winners of key divisions for the past five years.
2006 - Maz Quinn (Gis)
2007 - Daniel Kereopa (Rag)
2008 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2009 - Matt Hewitt (Mnt)
2010 - Billy Stairmand (Rag)
2011 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2007 - Wini Paul (Sandy Bay)
2008 - Angie Koops (Kaik)
2009 - Daisy Thomas (Chch)
2010 - Laura Rishworth (Mnt)
2011 - Airini Mason (Chch)
Junior Men (U/18)
2007 - Paco Divers (Sandy Bay)
2008 - Sean Peggs (Tairua)
2009 - Ryan Hawker (Piha)
2010 - Johnny Hicks (Gis)
2011 - Ben Poulter (Rag)
2007 - Daniel Kereopa (Rag)
2008 - Jay Quinn (Gis)
2009 - Daniel Proctor (Gis)
2010 - Dylan Barnfield (Ohope)
2011 - Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck)
Complete lists of all National Champions are located on the Surfing New Zealand website under History.
Entry into the Hyundai National Championships can be completed at Surfing New Zealand under events from 1st December. Complete the entry process online or download entry forms and send them in.