Sand runner Finch in NZ's squad for France

For a Palmerston North athlete to compete at the world surf lifesaving championships in France is some feat.

Murdoch Finch, 22, will be doing just that in September near Montpellier in the south of France.

And although a past swimmer at the Kiwi West, Icebreaker and Palmerston North clubs, he will be doing it with his feet.

Finch was selected in the New Zealand squad after last weekend's nationals on the black sands at Ohope Beach where he was runnerup in the beach sprint and third in the beach flags over 90 metres.

And those who know these things testify that New Zealand has four of the top six in the world in beach flags.

"Running on sand is very energy-sapping, quite taxing. You need a lot of stabilising muscles."

"Every beach is different; the harder sand suits track athletes better. With nine lanes, lanes one and nine can be different."

Finch started in surf at Himatangi Beach aged 16. However, his family had a beach house at Riversdale and he started working out there.

Last weekend he was still representing Riversdale, the club's sole competitor at the nationals and the first from Riversdale to win an open medal. He will wear the club cap at the world interclub championships in France.

He just hopes he is also picked for the New Zealand team.

Swimming was to be Finch's forte, but things turned one day when he was selected for the then Western Districts team.

"They didn't have a runner and I ended being the fastest.

"I sort of fell into it and haven't really looked back."

He did win a bronze medal in the national surf race once, but few beach athletes hit the water.

Finch comes out of a rugby background. Father Peter, a teacher, took the family off to England when Murdoch was 7 years old and he was there for six years while Peter was strength-and-conditioning coach at Gloucester, Worcester and more recently, at Sale.

Murdoch came back to Palmerston North Boys' High School where he played rugby, and played until last year with the Southern club in Dunedin. There he graduated with a degree in psychology at Otago University.

Dunedin's cold hampered winter training. Largely self-taught in surf, Finch has also been coached by his father and is now working with Palmerston North athletics coach George McConachy.

In recent years he affiliated with the Titahi Bay club so he could be part of the big Wellington team. This year a good season of training has paid off.

In three weeks time he will be at the Australia championships at Scarborough, Perth.

When he previously contested them he was ninth and the top Kiwi in beach flags and second New Zealander in the sprint.

Manawatu Standard