Remember Hawke's Bay's 1975 sportsperson of the year Michael Wilson?

The surf lifesaver recently returned to Hawke's Bay after 31 years in Australia and he is making a splash as a coach.

Four of his Westshore ski paddlers filled the top berths in the handicap section of Surf Lifesaving Hawke's Bay's four-round craft series, which ended with a race off Hardinge Rd, Napier, last week.

They were Summer Barker, Sammy Farrell, Tirau Wihongi and Hamish McNabb.


"Hawke's Bay needs some help and I'm happy to give it. I'm big on technique ... if you haven't got technique you've got nothing to build on," Wilson, 58, said.

The former Ocean Beach Kiwi competitor certainly had technique in his prime. At the Waimarama-hosted nationals in 1975, he won four gold medals and a silver.

Those results earned him selection in the South Africa-hosted world championships, where he won three bronze medals. "That was using a borrowed paddle too," he recalled.

"I was lucky to be able to use one from a British guy because for some reason I wasn't allowed to take my paddle. That's how tough things were back then. I had no coach and I had to train myself," Wilson recalled.

A son of Hawke's Bay swimming and lifesaving legend, the late Ivan Wilson, he is enjoying giving something back to the Bay scene after lengthy stints on various North Sydney beaches. The keen kayaker believes there is plenty of scope in Hawke's Bay for athletes to perform well in both kayaking and surf lifesaving at the same time.

Teams from his club and the Waimarama club performed well at the recent North Island IRB Championships, staged at Bay of Plenty's Papamoa Beach.

Waimarama won medals in the women's division for the first time. The club's women's team of Jaime Cox, Nicola Elmsly and Zoe Nilsson won a silver in the mass rescue and a bronze in the assembly race.

Rhys Harman and Ben Cross, along with patient Leila Cross, teamed up for the first time and competed in the senior division. Harman was a replacement for his brother and Cross' regular driver Michael Harman, who was recovering from an injury.

Despite being an under-21 driver, Harman battled the windy surf conditions well to capture a gold medal in the single rescue, a silver in the assembly rescue and a bronze in the mass rescue.

There was drama for this team at the end of the mass rescue. Harman and Cross had led the race until the end, when pressure on the young driver saw him finish through the wrong gate. On noting his error, he was still able to run to the right gate and take third place.

Those medals and some finals qualifying performances from the under-21 team of Luke Harman, Travis Wainwright and Greer Whiting saw Waimarama finish fifth overall.

Westshore finished seventh. Their under-21 crew of Taylor Dick, Ryan Ennor and Tessa Black took top honours in their grade with a gold in the tube rescue, silver in the mass assembly, bronze in assembly and fourth in the single rescue.

This was this trio's first competition together. They were the first medals Westshore had won in this age group in the history of the champs.

Westshore's other under-21 crew of Ben Tillard, Taine Williams and Jaime Leicester, and senior crew of Craig Knott, Brad Hall and Leicester reached semifinals.