Sports correspondent & historian
An international sport, in which New Zealand are the current world champions, is to showcase international competition at Mount Maunganui next week.
The International Surf Rescue Challenge, which is held in the intervening years between the World Surf Lifesaving Championship, is coming to the Mount Maunganui main beach from Thursday 30 November through to Sunday 3rd December 2017.
The best surf sport athletes in the world from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, USA, Canada and Japan, will go into head to head battle in a three test match series, on the best beach in our beautiful country.
Swim, board, ski and beach events will take centre stage, in front of the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service, where spectators can get up close and personal with the action. In addition to the on-the-water action, the knockout competition of the beaches flags and the beach sprints and relays will produce adrenalin pumping action that will get the crowd screaming with excitement.
In a world where it can cost a heap of money to watch international sport, the best part of the Mount Surf Rescue Challenge, is free entry to catch the action, with the bonus of a good workout walking the fair distance from a car park to the main beach.
The International Surf Rescue Challenge has its origins dating back nearly 80 years. In 1939 regular Trans-Tasman competition, started between the two countries separated by the Tasman Sea, before morphing into the ISRC in 1999.
Australia have had a mortgage on the international event since inception. At the last ISRC, the Kiwis ran their trans-Tasman rivals to the wire in 2015 on the Sunshine Coast. The Aussies scrapped home by two points with team USA in third place and Japan finishing fourth.
While Australia had a stranglehold on international surf sport competition from its early beginning, New Zealand has won the last three World Championship titles. The turnaround in New Zealand fortunes, started a couple of decades ago, when kiwi surf athletes began to train and compete in Queensland and New South Wales.
Leading the charge was Cory Hutchings, who was amongst the first New Zealanders to grab a spot in the professional circuit across the ditch. Cory won the World Surf Ironman title three times and held the New Zealand Surf Ironman crown for more than a decade.
A number of Western Bay of Plenty club members will represent their country in the 2017 International Surf Rescue Challenge. The senior team will be led by Omanu's Max Beattie, who has been a member of the 2012, 2014 and 2016 World Championship winning teams.
Fellow Omanu member Devon Halligan, daughter of rugby league legend Daryl Hallingan, along with Natalie Peat and Kodi Harman from Papamoa and Olivia Eaton from the host club, gives plenty of Western Bay of Plenty representation in the international event on our sand.
The place to be for Western Bay sports fans next week, is the main beach at the Mount where the best surf sport athletes in the world, will be on display in uncompromising head to head action on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.