73 contest White Island Race

Surf ski event winner Andrew Newton, formerly of St Clair but now of Tauranga, arrives back on the beach. Photos: Peter McIntosh
Surf ski event winner Andrew Newton, formerly of St Clair but now of Tauranga, arrives back on the beach. Photos: Peter McIntosh
Competitors run into the St Clair Beach surf at the start of the annual White Island Race on Saturday.
Competitors run into the St Clair Beach surf at the start of the annual White Island Race on Saturday.

Choppy seas, a pod of dolphins and adverse currents were just a few of the challenges overcome by the 73 entries in the 48th annual around White Island Race off St Clair Beach on Saturday.

In the event, organised by the St Clair Surf Life Saving Club since 1969, competitors slog the 5km-return route on rescue boards, surf skis and surf canoes. This year, four brave souls swam the course.

The club's lifeguard convener Michael Trembath said there was a chop on the water in the morning and a brisk sou'wester. The water was very cold and a current flowing to the north posed problems for the swimmers.

''It was a bit of a challenge for them to stay on course,'' Mr Trembath said.

Dolphins were encountered by some of the competitors, ''which they were a bit wary of at first''.

The annual race started simply as a challenge, but grew in popularity as trophies from various St Clair families and members were put forward, including from the family of 1964 shark attack victim Les Jordan.

Mr Trembath said given the open water aspect of the race, safety was a priority, with all clubs competing supplying inflatable rescue boats. Each swimmer had to have a boat nearby.

''It all went pretty well. There was some good competition.''

Andrew Newton (31), formerly of St Clair but now of Tauranga, was the first back on his surf ski on Saturday, in 25 minutes 43 seconds. The longstanding record for that division, the fastest of the four disciplines, is that of Geoff Walker, of 21min 11sec.

Winners: (min/sec): Female board: Annie Kennedy-Atchison 51.05. Male board: Hamish Trembath 42.02. Female surf ski: Lucy Matehere 30.40. Male surf ski: Andrew Newton 25.43. Team canoe female: Kaka Point 48.32. Team canoe male: Warrington 30.20. First swimmer: Stephanie Laughton, 1 hr 30.40sec.

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