Papamoa’s Natalie Peat will make a long-awaited return to New Zealand surf lifesaving competition, amid testing Tay St conditions at this weekend’s Bay of Plenty senior championships.
The 21-year-old Australia-based Kiwi representative hasn’t raced at home since breaking her foot at the International Surf Challenge in September but she’ll proudly pull on her blue-and-yellow cap alongside nearly 300 other athletes from nine different clubs this weekend.
Papamoa coach Matt Cairns is relishing having Peat back, while he’s also looking forward to the unique format of the championships, which sees IRB racing and masters racing included.
“Natalie will bring a lot of professionalism and guidance for our younger athletes and we’re delighted to have her back,” Cairns said. “”We’ve been pushing a one-club, one-team philosophy and it’s going to be really good to share the beach, not only with our IRB team but with our masters as well. We’ve been combining for boot camp-style sessions all year and the IRB guys have started to cross over and race other events on the beach as well – they’re really excited about this weekend.”
Papamoa will have the second-biggest team (62) at the carnival, behind national champions Mount Maunganui. Despite missing nearly two dozen top athletes to university or overseas commitments, Mount are bringing 86 open and masters athletes to the two-day carnival.
Making her masters debut for the Mount will be former New Zealand representative swimmer Penelope Strickland-Armstrong, who is now a world-ranked SUP paddler but with so many of his senior squad away, Mount coach John Bryant has one eye firmly on next month’s national championships in Whakatane.
The number of Bay of Plenty and Coromandel athletes has jumped this year, while athletes from a handful of other North Island clubs – such as Wellington’s Lyall Bay, Gisborne’s Waikanae and Hawke’s Bay’s Waimarama – will also attend.
This week’s miserable weather is expected to clear for the 10am start time on Saturday morning, with offshore winds helping groom the predicted 1.5m swell.