The country’s top three competitors, Richard Christie, ranked 43rd in the world; Billy Stairmand, 79th; and Jay Quinn, 41st, all made it through their first heats. The three often travel together as they compete on the world circuit.

“It was a good result in the end but such a slow start for me. It was hard with the incoming tide and the wind,” Quinn told

“I haven’t had a look who I have next but I know that Billy and Ric are on the other side of the draw so if I meet them at all it will be in the final.”

Quinn, whose brother and main rival Maz withdrew from the competition with a back injury, will also have to fend off Bobby Hansen (Gisborne) who is making a comeback after shoulder reconstruction left him landlocked for the best part of 2011.

Quinn won his second national title at Dunedin last year, three years after taking his first at his home beach in Gisborne.

The absence of defending champion Airini Mason, her sister Sarah and Taranaki’s Paige Hareb means Raglan’s Jessica Santorik is the only former ex-champion in the women’s draw.

Santorik last won at Opunake in 2005 but has come close on several other occasions.

She will head a young-looking draw with the likes of Gisborne 17-year-olds Ella Williams and Jayda Martin-Fitzharris front-runners to progress to the final and challenge.

In the stand-up paddleboarding, a pursuit given popularity by big wave legend Laird Hamilton, former NZ surf champ Daniel Kereopa is a strong contender for first place.

Check Kereopa out in the video below.