Sunday, 29 March 2009

Tongan born Gisborne based surfer Michael Burling has come from behind to narrowly win the 2009 Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour today (Saturday 28th March) after winning the final event of the season held at Port Waikato in what was a dramatic climax to the season.
Burling went into the final event of the year placed third on the ratings but his win today coupled with the demise of his two closest opponents, Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck) and Daniel Procter (Gis) meant that he took a crowd pleasing title.
“It has been a tough year. I wasn’t even going to do the tour this year but I did the first event and the competitive side of me came out and I couldn’t resist and yeah, here I am at the top of the ratings,” said Burling.
Due to his Tongan descent, Burling is unable to contest the Hyundai National Championships presented by Quiksilver and is always caught behind the elite pack of New Zealand’s top longboarders as a result. However his form this year has been rather remarkable. Burling took out the final two events of the year and placed runner up in the third and fourth events of the year to show not only a consistent run of form but also the ability to transform consistency into big wins when it matters most.
“What stood out for me this year was simply never giving up in events, competing until the end and giving it my all,” said Burling.  “All credit to Daniel [Procter] and Thomas [Kibblewhite], they have both had amazing years as well so I am just stoked to come out beating them.”
Burling finished with a 16.05 heat total in the final, less than a point clear of Mount Maunganui surfer Owen Barnes on 15.20.
“I went out with a simple plan of making the most of the waves before the tide went out too much. I got that 8.75 point ride on my first wave and that killed the nerves somewhat. At the end the others came back though and I didn’t quite know what the others needed to beat me so I started to tense up."
Midway through the final the win looked all Burlings, however it was the competitive experience of Barnes that pushed him back into contention.
Barnes completed several big vertical turns on one wave to score 7.70 and jump back into contention.  He then took a wave with two minutes remaining to score 7.50 out of a possible 10 points which was short of the 8.36 required for the win.
It was Barnes’ second runner up placing of the year after he performed well at his home break at the first event of the tour.
Placing third today was the number one seed going into the event, Thomas Kibblewhite (Auck).
Kibblewhite needed to win the final event with Burling placing no higher than third today but from the outset of the final and the form that Burling was in, that never looked likely.
Kibblewhite ultimately finished the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour placed second. In another noticeably stellar year-long performance Kibblewhite showed his consistency by placing in every one of the six finals this season.
Fourth place today went to Gisborne’s Kelly Ryan.  Ryan stormed through to the final as the dark horse. A part-time competitor on the tour, Ryan showed the style required to make it to the final but his good run came to a close in the final scoring 11.40 out of a possible 20.
Earlier in the semifinals, the third part to the title race, Daniel Procter (Gis), suffered a shock elimination in what he called “the worst heat” he surfed all year. He placed third in the semifinal to Burling and Ryan.  Jamie Andrews (Tara) placed fourth in that semifinal and finished seventh overall.
In the first semifinal Kibblewhite and Barnes put an end to the run of Dylan Barnfield (Ohope) and Sam Guthrie (Mnt) who placed fifth and seventh respectively.
Daisy Thomas (Chch) completed the unimaginable feat today jumping from fourth to first on the ratings to defend her title by way of her win in the Open Women’s Division.  Thomas had it all in front of her and the pressure looked too much early on as she found herself trailing the other surfers. Thomas’ patience finally paid off though as she found a long lefthander to score 8.0 and move into the lead late in the final.  Her win will be sweet after only competing in four of the six events this year and falling off the pace after two early wins on the tour.
Second today was part-time longboarder Mischa Davis (Piha) who led much of the final ending with a heat total of 10.75 points. Number one seed for the event, Jo Moore (Tara) placed third in the final to be bumped into second on the overall Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour ratings.  Gisborne surfer Belinda Galley placed fourth in the final.
Sam Guthrie (Mnt) was unstoppable in the Junior Men’s Division taking his fourth straight event and hence the 2009 Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour.  Guthrie posted 14.35 points in the final including an excellent 8.0 point ride. The smooth goofy foot surfer held off his three Ohope opponents but only just with Hone Douglas placing second to secure his best result of the year.  Douglas scored 14.25 in the final – a mere 0.10 behind Guthrie. Rick Williamson placed third with Eli Barnfield in fourth.
Lynden Kennings (WGM) made it a clean sweep of wins in the Over 40 Men’s Division for the year winning all four events that he entered. The fourth and final win was the closest of the lot with double finalist Michael Thomson (Rag) riding a final wave to score 6.40.  A 6.50 would have seen him take the title but he fell agonisingly short of taking his second title of the day.
Grant Cochrane (Chch) could not better his third in the Over 50 Men’s Division picking up another in the Over 40 Men’s Division posting 10.5 in the final – not far off the front runners with Kennings scoring 12.4 and Thomson scoring 12.3. Brian Young (Orewa) also scored 10.50 to finish fourth on a count-back.
Michael Thomson (Rag) won his first event of the year in the Over 50 Men’s Division scoring 11.40.  Thomson did enough to push David Storck (Piha) into second place. The loss was not the way Storck wanted to finish the season but with the result he did manage to take out the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour for 2009. It has been three years since Storck first won the title in 2006 and it was a happy return to the top of the table for the Piha surfer.
Christchurch surfer Grant Corchrane placed third in the final today with winner of the most recent event, Paul Browne (Auck), in fourth.


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