Joe Collins reckons he’s just ‘pretty average’ at individual ski, swim and board races but throw them all together and look out.
And although he’s still only 16, the Taranaki surf lifesaver heads into this weekend’s Mount Monster endurance ironman with something of a target on his back.
Collins stunned his older rivals in October when he won the short-course title at the Coolangatta Gold in Queensland, smashing the 21km course in 2hrs 19mins 29secs.
He’s also something of a veteran in the Mount Monster, New Zealand’s biggest surf lifesaving endurance event.
Saturday’s race will be his third crack at it, helping win the under-19 teams title as a 14-year-old in 2016 and finishing third in the under-19s - and eighth overall - in his first individual attempt last year.
“I was pretty surprised with my result last year - it was my first year doing it by myself and I felt pretty strong, although ski was still a bit of a liability,” Collins, who races for the Fitzroy club, says.
“I’ve been doing quite a bit of kayaking down in Taranaki this year and it’s given me a really good base for the season - no one has really said anything about it but I’m feeling like there may be a bit of expectation this year.”
He’s also got a bit of sporting pedigree, although how much athleticism he inherited is the cause of good-natured family debate.
Collins’ father is former Waikato and Chiefs prop Michael, now employed as chief executive of the franchise he played 81 games for.
“Dad claims that he was the most mobile prop in the game when he was playing but I tend to think my running comes more from my swimming fitness!”
Saturday’s race will be the sixth running of the Dexion-sponsored Monster, which takes athletes on a 25km epic along the Mount Maunganui coastline, comprising a 5km run, 1500m swim - including a 6m jump off the Moturiki Island blowhole - a 12km ski paddle and a 6km board.
Collins’ Coolangatta exploits proved an ideal hit-out, able to ride the wash of faster paddlers along the Surfers Paradise coastline in the ski, before claiming the win in the final run home.
He stuck around to watch the second day of racing, where former Monster winners Max Beattie and Danielle McKenzie picked up New Zealand’s best-ever finishes in the long-course Gold, each finishing second.
Having spent the past two weeks in Mount Maunganui training with the host club, Collins is confident he’s got his preparation dialled. Now he’s just excited.
“It’s always a really competitive field and I definitely like the setting and being able to jump off the blowhole is so much fun. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that sort of thing in Australia but I’m really glad they’re able to do it here.”