Veteran waveskiing on a wave of good health

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Steve Gibbs of Ngāi Tāmanuhiri has been crowned veteran champion at the NZ Open Waveskii Surfing Titles for 2019 in Gisborne.

The two-time world champion says waveskiing is a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay active while advancing in years.

“I damaged my knees playing rugby and I surfed a lot, and I was getting too fat and podgy to get on my feet, so I ended up jumping on a waveski," he says.

"I got into waveskiing through surf lifesaving, OLAY and just a natural progression from surfing into waveski surfing keep me in the water [and] has become a really good health tablet."

Gibbs is the director of the annual competition, where the NZ representative squad is selected to travel overseas to the world champs that are held every two years.

“[I] have a pretty active lifestyle. Living in Gisborne means that you can live by the sea and wave skiing, like all these other guys I'm on the beach with today, actually keeps us fit, gives us something to do. But it puts us back in the sea really and I just love surfing,” he says.

“My kids don't like wave skiing because they prefer surfing. In fact, if I go for a surf with them they'll discretely tell me 'do you mind if you go out somewhere else dad?'”

A long-serving surf lifesaving coach, Gibbs has invested in teaching people water safety for years.

“I think we had the highest drowning rates in NZ for a while which wasn't very good, which means that we still need to teach our people how to get in the sea. But this is about me I think, just keeping myself going," he says. 

"I'm not that concerned with other people at this stage because you get to a stage where you, I've done all that I think, helped a lot of people for a long time. In my mid-60's, it's good to just do something that you really enjoy doing.”

The two-time world champion (2007, 2017) says he's at home in the ocean and that waveskiing is just one aspect of an ocean-based lifestyle.

“We paddle out in kayaks and drop our crayfish pots off, and it's really the same thing. It's a lifestyle thing, it's a bit of health thing, you don't get many crays, one or two, but that's enough. But it's actually just getting in the water, getting beaten up a few times by Tangaroa, keeps you honest.”

Gibbs will continue competing and mixing with like-minded water people.