Manu Bay hosts NZ's finest surfers
Surfers battled the onslaught of former Tropical Cyclone Lusi as gale force winds chopped up the swell in New Zealand's richest pro tournament at Raglan's Manu Bay.
The west coast town hosted 80 of the best surfers in New Zealand on Saturday, braving stormy seas for a cut of the $12,000 prize money.
But Surfing NZ's Ben Kennings said it was a major struggle.
"Sometimes it was alright but when a gust came in it was just ridiculous, so we kind of just soldiered on," Mr Kennings said.
Gisborne's Richard Christie came through the pack to take the open men's division but event favourite and three time champion Billy Stairmand was bundled out in the semifinals.
Whangamata surfer Grace Speirs won the open women's title and Raglan surfer Jessica Santorik came third.
Mr Kennings said while the competitors had to dial back their performance and surf to match the conditions, they all had plenty to compete for.
"This is the one event that they all come back to compete at and there is a trip to Indonesia up for grabs and an entry into this invitational event called the Rip Curl Padang Cup," he said.
"They all really want to get that plus the ratings and the prize money."
Piha surfer Elliot Paerata-Reid was back from Australia where he has been contesting the ASP Pro Junior tour and won the weekend's junior section.
He notched up fourth place in the open men's division and Mr Kennings said he was one of the "standout" performances.
"They are the best guys and they all surf so well so it was a matter of separating the good rides from the excellent rides.
The Rip Curl Pro made a return to Manu Bay after it spent the previous two years based at the neighbouring Ruapuke Beach.
International stars ASP World Tour surfer Owen Wright from Australia and ex-pro surfer Taylor Knox from the USA also attended.