Ngāti Maniapoto lifesaving competitor wins NZ surf race finals

By Taroi Black

A gun surf lifesaving competitor in the TSB Nationals Surf Life Saving Championships 2020 in Gisborne rises to the top of under 16 division.

Jack Keepa made his triumphant win in the surf race finals against 138 strong competitors from around the motu.

“It's my last year in this age group and I’m giving it a good shot,” Keepa says.

The 16 year-old who hails from the Wainui Surf Life Saving Club is competing in the New Zealand nationals for the third time. Each competitor must compete in all classes of the event that demonstrates the ability to be a true master of lifesaving.  

The competition format means that all 1400 surf lifesavers must each take part in surf racing, board rescue, tube rescue, board relay and run swim run race.

“I just love the waves, love the environment, and just love being in it, love the ocean since I was a kid.”

Keepa was raised in a staunch surfing whanau, however, lifesaving for him began when he was a nipper out at Wainui.

His mother, a local member of the surf lifesaving club Sonya Keepa is proud of his achievements as he moves on to the under 19s next year.

“Jacks being training really hard throughout the season, he's put a lot of hours in the pool. To come out like that in the heat, and heading into a final and feeling really good. Very, very, pleased with him,” Sonya says.

The prospect of the TSB Nationals Surf Life Saving Championships has seen an increase in participation. That has seen almost 300 masters competitors in this year’s competition.  

Organiser Scott Bicknell says, “It's a very big number for Gisborne a big increase, so 296 masters were here which is just shy of what we usually get at the Mount (Tauranga) and when you think about the travel to Gisborne it kind of highlights that Gisborne is a great venue.”