The second Edition of The Ultimate Waterman started this week-end in New Zealand. Greg Townsend, Chief Executive of The Ultimate Waterman and agreed to answer a couple of our questions about the origin and the organisation of the event.
1) Who / what organization is behind the Ultimate Waterman and when was the concept born?
I conceived the event as the Chief Executive of Surf New Zealand, I had a vision of developing a totally new and unique global event to find the best all-round waterman surfing champion in the world. I began work on turning this vision into reality in 2011, with the help and support of Hawaiians Titus Kinimaka and Laird Hamilton, and Australian Joel Parkinson. The first event was held in New Zealand in 2015.
2) Last year marked the first edition? Was it a success and on what grounds (spectators, viewers, sponsorships, TV? etc…)
The inaugural event was a success on many different levels and created a great stepping stone to build on for the future. The whole concept revolved around taking the event to the world through media/TV and social media. The key to our success was Red Bull Media House’s documentary of the event, which reached a potential 65 million people across the world via social media, television and other media channels. It also put Auckland and New Zealand in the spotlight. This year Red Bull is going bigger and better, creating a three-part TV series to showcase the 2016 event which will premiere on Red Bull TV then screen on other domestic and international platforms. Red Bull TV plans to air The Ultimate Waterman as part of a ‘Waterman Week’ in September, starting with last year’s one-hour documentary. The New Zealand Government has invested $1.2 million over three years in the event, anticipating The Ultimate Waterman to generate significant immediate and long-term benefits for New Zealand and have positive effects on New Zealand’s reputation as a world-class event destination.
3) What’s new this year? Have you changed anything from last year’s format?
“Prone Paddleboard” and an “Underwater Strength Run and Swim” are two new disciplines for the 2016 event, taking the number of disciplines to eight alongside short and longboard, stand-up paddle and endurance, outrigger canoe and big wave paddle-in surfing.
4) Who are the riders this year? How do you pick them? Does it have to be 8 riders only every year or is the event open to more?
Athletes are handpicked on their abilities and skills across the range of disciplines. Over the coming years we would like to grow the event to have more competitors, different divisions and different locations.
New athletes competing in 2016:
1. Zane Schweitzer (HAW): A true all-round waterman. He finished runner-up behind fellow TUW newcomer Caio Vaz on the 2015 SUP World Tour, won the Tahitian leg of the series and placed third in the final event at Huntington Beach, California. Zane won the first event SUP World Tour Pioneer Award for pushing the progression of the sport across the world.
2. Caio Vaz (BRA): Caio Vaz (BRA) won his first world title in 2015 and is the current the SUP World Champion. This 21-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro is a star on the rise. He has been competing in the SUP World Tour since 2012, improving his ranking each year. A few weeks ago he won the Sunset Beach Pro round of the SUP World Tour. Caio is also an accomplished model and actor.
1. Danny Ching (USA): Recognised worldwide as a highly skilled paddler having won the 2014 SUP World Champions Tour and the Outrigger world championships multiple times.
2. Kala Alexander (HAW): Proud Hawaiian and Kanaka Maoli, Kala holds mana in the international surfing community. His work helping kids with cystic fibrosis, as Vice President of the Mauli Ola Foundation, is inspirational. An ongoing invitee to one of the world’s prestigous invite only events in memory of Eddie Aikau.
3. Mark Visser (AUS): Big wave surfer and ocean adventurer, the 2014/15 Big Wave Paddle-in Champion, 2015 winner of the Oakley Big Wave Awards and has also just ridden the famous Jaws surf break at night.
4. Connor Baxter (HAW): Over 80 first place finishes in SUP and is ranked the No.1 Paddler in the world in the racing stats.
5. Manoa Drollet (PYF): Twice winner of the ASP World Tour Trials at Teahupoo and an amazing free diver.
6. Daniel Kereopa (NZL): One of New Zealand’s most dedicated surfers, who has won multiple national surfing titles in the shortboard, longboard and SUP division. 2015 Ultimate Waterman winner.
5) What locations are you taking the riders to in New Zealand?
Confirmed locations for the event are Piha, Takapuna Beach and Auckland Viaduct in Auckland. Other potential competition locations are Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne and Mahia on the East Cost of the North Island; Raglan on the West Coast of the North Island; Fiordland, Dunedin (North and South coasts) and Catlins in the South Island. Final competition locations for each discipline will be determined by where the surf conditions are best, and are decided between 1-2 days prior.
6) Is there any prize money for the winner(s)?
Athletes are paid an appearance fee to compete, with all expenses paid. The main motivation for winning is the prestige that comes with being crowned the world’s best all-round waterman. In future we plan to offer the biggest prize pool in world surfing.