Daniel Kereopa

King Kereopa

WORDS: BEN STANLEY & ROBERT TIGHE 
PHOTOGRAPHY: CORY SCOTT/THE ULTIMATE WATERMAN 

A smashed longboard ruined Kai Lenny’s chances of becoming the world’s first Ultimate Waterman. Instead the title went to local hero Daniel Kereopa

Thirty-six-year-old veteran Daniel Kereopa beat off the challenges of seven other elite watermen from Hawaii, the US, Australia and the Pacific Islands to win the first Ultimate Waterman invitational competition, held in New Zealand in March.“Daniel is an incredible athlete,” said Kai Lenny of Kereopa’s win. ”The Ultimate Waterman is all about being in sync with the ocean and Daniel surfed really strongly in every event. His local knowledge helped and he took full advantage.” The competition saw athletes compete in shortboard, longboard and big-wave surfing, waka ama, SUP endurance and SUP surfing, in New Zealand’s North and South Islands. 

This year’s teaser to The Ultimate Waterman 

8 Athletes - One Winner

Kai Lenny looked the man to beat with confident early showings, but disaster struck when his board fell off the back of a van on the way to the longboard round of competition in Raglan. With the board smashed into several pieces, Lenny had to borrow another and Kereopa took advantage. Kereopa’s win in the longboard discipline meant the competition went down to the final day – a 15km SUP endurance race off Auckland, won by the world number one, Connor Baxter. To beat Kereopa on points, Lenny needed to win and see the Kiwi finish fifth or worse, but it was not to be, with the pair finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. 

“Daniel is an incredible athlete. His local knowledge helped and he took full advantage”
Kai Lenny

Kereopa’s win was a fitting climax to the first edition of The Ultimate Waterman, with Lenny in second and Connor Baxter in third. Developed by Surfing New Zealand, the competition will run for another three years as an invitational, although there are plans to launch it as a World Series-style event. “I think it has a lot of potential,” says Lenny. “It’s great to see athletes from different sports competing in so many disciplines, plus we got a tour of New Zealand. It was a pretty special event.”

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