The Ultimate Waterman Challenge Wrap-Up
All Photos: The Ultimate Waterman
“Waterman” is the ultimate title in the SUP community. It delivers the ultimate recognition of a skill set we all revere—a multifaceted ability to survive and thrive at sea. So, when a competition arises to distinguish earth’s ultimate waterman, the battle for that title is pretty, dare we say, ultimate.
That battle went down last week at The Ultimate Waterman in New Zealand. Eight of the world’s most respected watermen converged on the craggy southwestern Pacific coastline to compete in six different disciplines of the watermen’s repertoire—SUP surfing, big-wave surfing, longboard and shortboard surfing, Waka Ama (outrigger canoe) racing and SUP endurance racing. Subaru, Red Bull and the event’s ambassadors—legendary Hawaiian watermen Laird Hamilton and Titus Kinimaka—buttressed the competition with credible sponsorship and industry support. Cyclone Pam provided the swell. And in the end, a well-deserving darkhorse—Raglan’s own Daniel Kereopa—claimed The Ultimate Wateman title against the likes of Connor Baxter, Danny Ching, Mark Visser, Manoa Drollet, George Cronsteadt, Kala Alexander and Kai Lenny.
Nearly everything about the event was a first in history. First “ultimate waterman” title, first SUP event of this caliber in New Zealand, first contest to encompass these six disciplines, first (and last) competition in the swells of Cyclone Pam…the list goes on. But perhaps the most unique aspect of The Ultimate Waterman challenge was its schedule. Laird Hamilton described the event as eight of the world’s top watermen chasing (or dodging) Cyclone Pam around the rock. And for six days, so went The Ultimate Waterman challenge, its spontaneous format showcasing the versatility and adaptability of each competitor’s A-game.
All events in the competition took place in strategically suited conditions, with SUP surfing claiming the most extreme of the week. The reeling right-hand break, near Dunedin on the southeastern edge of New Zealand's South Island, provided a double-overhead and barreling hippodrome for the standup surfers. After two four-man heats, with the top two surfers from each advancing into a four-man final, Kereopa claimed victory and established an early lead on the competition.
Kereopa nose rode his way into a first place crown in the longboard competition as well, locking in a substantial lead in the overall title battle coming into the SUP endurance race, which was held in Mission Bay on the final day. With all other events behind them, Kai Lenny was the only competitor mathematically within range of commandeering the title.
At the finish line, Connor Baxter took first following a neck-and-neck grind with Danny Ching. Georges Cronsteadt took third, with Kai Lenny fourth and six minutes ahead of Kereopa. It wasn’t enough to take the lead in overall points though, and Kereopa maintained his overall lead, taking The Ultimate Waterman title for New Zealand with a fairytale ending for their hometown hero.
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Final Overall Results
1. Daniel Kereopa (NZL), 4836
2. Kai Lenny (HAW), 4650
3. Connor Baxter (HAW), 4625
4. Danny Ching (USA), 4499
5. Manoa Drollet (TAH), 4249
6. Mark Visser (AUS), 4061
7. Georges Cronsteadt (TAH), 3981
8. Kala Alexander (HAW), 3576
Videos recaps from The Ultimate Waterman