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Big boats at Piha

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Big boats at Piha


Surf boat, 1946, Tom Pearce at sweep

Big boats and Piha go together. That big tough heavy surf needed boats and boaties that had the same quality. Piha was one of the first surf clubs in New Zealand to get a surf boat, which club members knew about from Australia. In 1935 the club bought and imported the Bronte club’s old boat and then in 1938 they got their own purpose built boat from WM Ford boatbuilder of Berry’s Bay, Sydney, with specially strenthened floorboard to handle the surf and the fact that they were all big men.

In 1939, Piha raced the Wainui Club of Gisborne at Piha, the first surfboat race in New Zealand. The following year, the Piha crew took their boat down to Wellington and won the first ever national surf boat race. The crew was Tom Pearce (captain and sweep), Hadyn Way, Max Clearly, Jack Rae and Tiger O’Brien.

Piha A Crew, 2006

Piha continued to excel in big boats – particularly in the mid-1980s when Piha crews won double gold at the nationals and a test against the Australians –  but maybe the crown was starting to drift away at the turn of century. Up stepped Mark “Horse” Bourneville, ex-Kiwi, looking for a new challenge. The sport and club tradition of big boats suited him and he set about reviving the thrill and glamour of surf boating on a big scale.

The first Piha Big Wave Classic was held on Piha beach in April 2005 and crew member Bruce O’Brien took DVDs of the event to show at the Australian nationals and it went up on U-tube.

In successive years, crews have come from all around New Zealand and from across the Tasman.

More and more boats are lining up at national carnivals and at the now-two-day Day of Giants and Big Wave Classic.

Big Wave Classic, 2010, photo Gregor Nicholas

Piha’s boats contintue to thrill the crowds as a great spectator sport and have added to the mana and glamour of Piha club.

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