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Kaikoura surfer Levi O’Connor surfed his way to victory at the Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Championships held at Gore Bay over the weekend (21 – 22 April), competing in his first national surfing event in two years.

The thirty-year-old who rarely competes outside of his hometown put on a dominant display in the finals defeating all three of his more highly ranked opponents.

In clean 1.0m – 1.5 waves he disposed of surfers including the winner of the most recent South Island Championships, Zen Wallis of Piha, and Dunedin duo Elliott Brown and Josh Thickpenny.

By way of a third-place finish this week, Wallis takes the overall New Zealand Surf Series rankings lead from fellow Piha surfer Elliot Paerata – Reid who is in transit heading home after competing at a World Qualifying Series event in Indonesia.

In the final of the weekend’s event, O’Connor surfed to a 16.1 point heat total out of a possible 20 points.  He claimed the title with what ended up as a comfortable victory.  However, the win was not so likely for much of the final.

“My strategy was to surf the lefts that were coming through and I got a couple but they ended up being not that good” commented O’Connor.

“Halfway through the heat, I knew I needed a good wave and this one came through that allowed me to go right.  I pulled off an air reverse then hit the end section and it ended up being an excellent wave.  After that, I got one more good one and that was enough to win” he added.

It was O’Connor’s first event of the year and he had placed second in all of his heats leading up to the final, his only win coming when it mattered most.

“I felt like I had been surfing good leading into the event and my new board feels really good too.  I won the Kaikoura event last year but I am stoked to add this title, it was a fun weekend and the team at North Wai did a great job running the event.”

Dunedin’s Elliott Brown stormed back into form over the weekend placing second in the Open Men’s Division and also winning the Under 18 Boys Division.  Brown had surfed to some impressive heat totals all weekend but his 13.8 point heat total in the final fo the Open Men’s Division did not match the 16.1 points from O’Connor.

Brown will now switch focus to the Australasian Pro Junior events as he travels across the ditch to Australia this week for a competition starting on Saturday.

Placing third in the final was Piha’s Zen Wallis, himself a double finalist after earlier winning the Longboard Division.  Not only does he take the number one ranking for the New Zealand Surf Series but also the New Zealand Longboard Tour.

Finishing in fourth place in the Open Men’s Division was Josh Thickpenny (Dun) who had earlier claimed the Over 30 Men’s Division to hold down his number one ranking on the South Island Circuit.

South Coast Boardriders claimed their third title through Jack McLeod (Dun) who won the Under 20 Boys Division with a 13.8 point heat total over Waihi Beach surfer Zac Curle.

Myka Black (Chch) won his second event of the season in the Under 16 Boys Division which now sees him take the number one ranking from Whangarei surfer Tom Robinson.  Robinson finished fourth in the final and drops back to second in the rankings.

Raglan’s Jayden Willoughby surfed to his fifth win of the year in the Under 14 Boys Division guaranteeing him the series title for 2017.  He backed that performance up with an excellent showing in the Under 16 Boys Division finishing second overall.

Willoughby’s father Phill could not replicate his son’s success but did finish second in the Over 45 Men’s Division to Kaikoura’s David Lyons.  The win was Lyons’ first for 2018 and is a good omen heading into the fourth and final event of the South Island Circuit being held in his hometown in little over a month.

Participants across the eight divisions vied for $10,000 in cash and prizes, Levi O’Connor walking away with $1,500 for winning the Open Men’s Division.

The event was sanctioned by both Surfing New Zealand and the South Island Surfing Association.

The Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Surfing Championships is followed closely by two national events on consecutive weekends – the Backdoor Oceanbridge Manu Bay Pro on the 27-29 April and the Rip Curl Pro at Raglan on the 4-5 May.

Please see below for results of all finals held at Gore Bay, Canterbury on Sunday 22nd April.

Open Men’s Division Final
Levi O’Connor (Kaik), 16.1, 1, Elliott Brown (Dun), 13.8, 2, Zen Wallis (Piha), 12.5, 3, Josh Thickpenny (Dun), 9.9, 4

Under 20 Boys Division Final
Jack McLeod (Dun), 13.9, 1, Zac Curle (Waihi Bch), 13.3, 2, Shane Kraus (Piha), 9.87, 3, James Murphy (Dun), 9.1, 4

Under 18 Boys Division Final
Elliott Brown (Dun), 15.1, 1, Jack McLeod (Dun), 13.6, 2, Conor McLennan (Chch), 13.5, 3, Neko Tohiariki (Chch), 7.9, 4

Under 16 Boys Division Final
Myka Black (Chch), 14.5, 1, Jayden Willoughby (Rag), 10.6, 2, Neko Tohiariki (Chch), 9.5, 3, Tom Robinson (Whngrei), 8.3, 4

Under 14 Boys Division Final
Jayden Willoughby (Rag), 10.8, 1, Jai Oakley (Chch), 10.1, 2, Koby Cameron (Chch), 8.8, 3, James Millar (Chch), 8.6, 4

Over 30 Men’s Division Final
Josh Thickpenny (Dun), 12.8, 1, Johnny Wardrop (Chch), 11.7, 2, Mike Oakley (Chch), 11.5, 3, Ben Rees (Chch), 10.2, 4

Over 45 Men’s Division Final
Dave Lyons (Kaik), 10.5, 1, Phill Willoughby (Rag), 9.37, 2, Dean Jefferies (Chch), 5.27, 3, Neill Robb (Chch), 5.07, 4

Men’s Longboard Division Final
Zen Wallis (Piha), 15.7, 1, Hugh Ritchie (Chch), 12.2, 2, William Wallace (Dun), 10.7, 3, Nick Black (Chch), 9.1, 4

Information
For more information on the Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Championships please contact Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email benkennings@surfingnz.co.nz.  Alternatively contact Russell Ritchie on 0274325972 – russell.ritchie@xtra.co.nz.

The Exit Surf Men’s Canterbury Surfing Championships would not be possible without the support of Exit Surf, Ocean & Earth, Mike Pero Real Estate, Xcel, Pier Lodge, Eruption Brewing, host club North Wai Boardriders and the South Island Surfing Association.

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