Sad news of Oceans' 17 leaving the Mount

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

On reading SunLive, Sideline Sid was saddened by the news that the New Zealand Surf Lifesaving Under 14 championships are leaving Mount Maunganui after 17 highly successful years.

From humble beginnings in 2001, the inaugural Ocean Athletes event made its entrance at the Mount main beach from where it has reigned supreme for 17 years.

This grey haired sports fan was there on day one and continued as a volunteer for a decade.

In the last 17 years, the super stars of the future have come to the Mount to find the best Under 11, 12, 13 and 14 junior surf athletes in the country.

From a couple of hundred mainly Bay of Plenty and Auckland region youngsters in 2001 – Oceans 17 attracted many hundreds of young surf athletes and the myriad of supporters to the Mount beach.

One wonders how much the four days of competition brings to the region in economic benefits.

This has now been lost, with the words that the change of venue to Orewa next year is what our membership wants and the event could come back to Mount Maunganui in the future.

Sid can remember back to 1994, when he was actively involved in the surf lifesaving movement of the Nationals being taken back to Lyall Bay in Wellington, after a 30 year absence.

Lack of surf and beach space ensured the return of the Nationals to New Zealand's Capital City was short lived.

The arrival of Oceans Athletes coincided with the emergence of the Black Fins successfully taking on and defeating our Australian cousins across the ditch.

Three World Lifesaving titles in 2012, 2014 and 2016 have well and truly put New Zealand at the top of the surf sport mountain.

Prior to the dawn of the New Millennium, the kiwi representatives were usually a distant second to the Australian teams in both Trans Tasman and World Championship competition.

However, the arrival of a big base of young athletes from the Ocean Athletes Under 14 competition has changed the face of world surf sport competition.

The first few Ocean Athletes events kicked off with a Friday night of pool competition at the Greerton Aquatic Centre.

From there, grew the SLSNZ Pool Championships - which is one of the biggest event on the SLSNZ surf sport calendar.

A barrier to winning earlier World Lifesaving titles was the combined elements of pool and surf competition.

The establishment of the SLSNZ Pool Championships removed that barrier, with the kiwi sides putting plenty of focus on getting a good start in the pool before firing in the surf later in the competition.

The next major SLSNZ event on this season's calendar is the National Championships, to be held at New Brighton Beach in Canterbury 16-19 March 2017.

While today there are few beaches that have the inter-structure to support the National, it's interesting to look back at some of venues of the past.

In 1924, the Nationals were held in Wanganui, while the flat waters of Takapuna and Milford hosted the event in the thirties.

Other places that have been home to the SLSNZ flagship event that couldn't host today's Nationals include Greymouth, Napier and Oreti Beach at the bottom of the South Island.


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