Daniel Kereopa’s skills as a waterman are being affirmed as world-class as he enters the battle for The Ultimate Waterman title this week.
The Ultimate Waterman event was the brainchild of Surfing New Zealand chief executive Greg Townsend and involved eight hand-picked watermen competing in six different disciplines over eight days.

Daniel – a multi-title surfer and waterman from Raglan and New Zealand’s sole competitor in the event – finished fourth in the shortboard discipline and fifth in the waka ama discipline at the start of the week.

“For me it’s a personal achievement, that I can compete against these guys and do really well against them,” Daniel said.

The inaugural event had attracted some of the biggest names in the watersports world including stand-up paddle champions Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter (both Hawaiian), Tahiti’s legendary big wave surfer and paddler Manoa Drollet, world champion big wave surfer Mark Visser (Australia) and Danny Ching (USA).

Daniel said the competitors were “just like good mates” and it was amazing to be standing alongside these well-known watermen. “We just have a mutual understanding of the ocean and what this contest is all about.”

Professional OC1 canoe racer Danny Ching was first in Saturday’s 17km waka ama endurance race that finished at Auckland’s Takapuna Beach. It was a close race with multi-title winning paddler Georges Cronsteadt (Tahiti), coming in just 18 seconds later.

Both athletes nominated waka ama as their top discipline from the six, meaning they gained double points.

Daniel said he had a lot of fun in the waka ama race and had been coming third, but then made a navigational error: “That’s the gamble that you take.”

The shortboard competition, held in northern Coromandel in the wake of Cyclone Pam, was won by Monoa Drollet, with second place going to Mark Visser, while Daniel “did his best” on a borrowed board, with a cut lip. Both Manoa and Mark had chosen shortboarding as their ‘double whammy’ point discipline.

Daniel’s chosen top discipline was longboard surfing, which would probably be held somewhere in the southern part of the South Island, where the athletes went on Tuesday for a few days’ of competition.

Part of the event concept was to travel around New Zealand to the best conditions available for each discipline.
The Ultimate Waterman challenge wrapped up this Saturday at Auckland’s Mission Bay with the stand-up paddle endurance race, which would be held alongside open paddleboard races.

The overall winner of all six disciplines would then be crowned The Ultimate Waterman and would hold the title until the next competition in 2016.

Rachel Benn