The departure of Surfing New Zealand boss Greg Townsend could be the start of a reconciliation period between clubs and the national body.

In late 2017, Damon Harvey, a former member of the board, raised concerns over the way the national body was being run, with particular emphasis on Townsend's conduct.

While Townsend, who sat in the organisation's chief executive chair since 1995, had some strong support in surfing circles, Harvey was one of many who had issues with the body's leadership, as were the Surfing Taranaki group.

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Clashing with Townsend, Surfing Taranaki took it upon themselves to bring the world's best surfers to New Zealand. The group hosted a stop on the World Surf League Women's Championship Tour from 2010-2013, before the stop became one of a limited number of major events on the qualifying series.

Surfing Taranaki chief executive Craig Williamson said now Townsend's time with the organisation had come to an end, Surfing New Zealand had a unique opportunity to start afresh.

"It is no secret we've had our differences with Townsend in the past.

"It will take a lot of good work from a group of dedicated people to pick up Surfing New Zealand and get the organisation back on track. That said, there is no time like the present and this is the best opportunity they have had in a very long time to regroup."

Townsend's focus on the Ultimate Waterman competition was an area of particular argument across the country. The competition – a multi-disciplined water sports event - was Townsend's brainchild which he developed over the past decade as part of Surfing New Zealand, with funding from a number of sources including Sport New Zealand. The event was run in New Zealand from 2015-17, but was this year sold to an organisation of which Townsend was a shareholder, who will be running the contest in Hawaii.

Greg Townsend (right) with former Surfing New Zealand President Gary Quinn at Manu Beach, Raglan in 2001. Photo / Derek Flynn
Greg Townsend (right) with former Surfing New Zealand President Gary Quinn at Manu Beach, Raglan in 2001. Photo / Derek Flynn

During the time the competition was taken from idea to reality, surfing in New Zealand fell behind nations like Australia in the development of the country's athletes. This year was the first in which Surfing New Zealand offered high performance coaching to the nation's top surfers.

The sale, which could net the organisation $30,000 every year the event is held and five per cent of any profits, was given the go ahead early this year, and Townsend's resignation from his role with Surfing New Zealand soon followed.

Williamson said with Townsend and the Ultimate Waterman moving on, the organisation could focus its attention on continuing the growth and development of surfing in New Zealand, and begin to see the sport head in the right direction.


Townsend's resignation from the chief executive's role with Surfing New Zealand was announced late last month. No replacement has been announced.

Surfing New Zealand president Chris Fougere did not respond when contacted for comment about Townsend's departure, the sale of the Ultimate Waterman and how these might impact the sport.

However, in a statement released by Surfing New Zealand announcing Townsend's departure, Fougere said Townsend left the organisation with justifiable pride in his work and achievements.

"I hope he might now find time for a few waves for himself, having put in place a framework for so many others to enjoy a competitive surfing framework in New Zealand."

During 23 years at the helm, Townsend was responsible for bringing a number of events to New Zealand shores in the early 2000s, including the World Longboard Championships, Surf Sessions which featured the likes of Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Mark Occhilupo, Sunny Garcia and Bruce Irons, and the International Surfing Association World Junior Surfing Championships. He also had a hand in developing local tours.