Mt Maunganui all rounder Andrew Newton seemed as surprised as anyone to complete an outstanding win in the surf lifesaving national surf race series at his home beach yesterday.
During the season-long series participants had to demonstrate exceptional skill on boards and skis as well as the core lifesaving skill of swimming.
Newton is a three-time New Zealand board race champion and a more than a capable ski paddler at the top level.
But he is the first to admit he is not a champion swimmer.
As expected, Newton led the starting board race section and extended that lead on the ski and then held on grimly on the final swim leg as his Mount club mates Perry Farrell and George Haynes threatened.
Great Britain representative Haynes was a threat, having won the two previous rounds of the series.
"It was quite handy having the craft go first and I just tried to hold on for dear life in the swim and get a wave," Newton said.
"I was hoping to pull something but it didn't quite come and I missed a couple of waves. I could see someone coming up behind me so I just dug it in and made it hurt."
The women's final was won by Papamoa's Natalie Peat, but not in the manner many expected.
Peat led early in the swim but the chasing pack caught a wave and hauled her in.
Mount Maunganui's Katie Wilson opened a big lead on the ski leg but then lost her ski coming in on a big set wave.
Mairangi Bay's Danielle McKenzie then took the initiative in the final board leg but ran out of waves on the way home.
Peat and Piha's Kirsty Wannan chased her down, with Peat's superior dismount on the beach giving her the edge in a sprint finish.
"I'm not really renowned for my sprint finishes so it was good to pull that one of the bag," 18-year-old Peat said.
"I was leading in the swim and the whole pack came through so I was stoked to get the wave on the board and get back up to the front pack."