Surfers hope to impress at Piha

By Cameron Leslie

Defending national champion Manu Scott-Arrieta will be looking to make it a hat trick of wins when the Hyundai national championships kick off in Piha tomorrow.

Sandy Bay's Scott-Arrieta will have the odds against him though as he jumps up an age division into the under-16s, a jump which is described as a step up by Scott-Arrieta's Northland and New Zealand junior coach Jason Ruddell.

"The ones to watch are Manu [Scott-Arrieta], first and foremost," said Ruddell. "[He] won it last year after backing it up from the year before. But then he's looking at under-16 division which is a step up for him.

"Matt McGregor had a good campaign last year and made the semis. Matt [McGregor], Joe [Palmer] and Zane [Hicks] have definitely got the ability to make semis if not the finals."

Hicks, Palmer, McGregor and Scott-Arrieta are joined by fellow Northland surfers Ryan Rennall and Robyn Turnbull, who is now based at the Raglan Surf Academy after finishing third in the under-18s at the scholastic nationals in October.

This weekend's nationals will run for six days and double as a training camp for Ruddell's New Zealand ISA World Surfing Championship squad which will be trimmed down at the end of nationals.

Ruddell said nationals were part of the New Zealand squad's extended build up to the World Surfing Championship in Nicaragua (near Costa Rica) which will allow team management and selectors to assess the surfers closely before the final 24-strong travelling team is announced on April 23.

"That's [once the team gets trimmed] where we get a bit more serious with fitness testing and more focused coaching. What we said to all the guys was that you're in the team, bank on being in the team, and start fundraising now because it's not cheap to go on these campaigns.

"For New Zealand surfers to progress they need to be going to those harder competitions to put competitors up against them to give them a yard stick.

"It [the training camp] will be more us observing them and how they're going in terms of work ethic and things like that."

Ruddell, who also is a personal trainer at the Whangarei Aquatic Centre, expects to see how serious the Northland and New Zealand surfers have taken it by observing their actions.

"You know if they are [taking training seriously] if they are doing their warm up drills or are they goofing off."

Ruddell said the nationals will also provide an opportunity for himself and fellow Northlander and New Zealand junior manager Tony Baker, to observe team dynamics.

"It's a good way to get the team together ... we're travelling overseas as a tight group, sharing the same spaces so we need to operate as a team and if we've got personalities that clash then that's an important component for us to look at.

"At the end of the day though the best surfers will make the team but we still need to look at these things."

The World Junior Surfing Championships is an annual event having been held since 2003. New Zealand has competed at the event since its inception and placed 10th at the 2012 event in Panama.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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