15 December 2018
Dempster, 18, held off an incredible challenge from 16-year-old Joe Collins to win the 24.5km, four-leg epic along the Mount Maunganui coastline, becoming just the second local to take the crown after Hamish Miller won last year.
Miller was third, unable to sustain his startling early run and swim pace in the Dexion-sponsored race, with Dempster and Collins sneaking clear on the final 6km board leg and Dempster holding off his younger rival in the final 200m to win in 2hrs 20mins 57secs, 15secs clear.
“Last year, I went way too hard in my run and died in my swim, which left me right out the back and trying to fight back through the ski and the board,” Dempster, who was runner-up in 2017, said. “This year, I paced myself and built through the swim, so I was in third going into the ski, which was ideal.”
It capped an amazing month for Dempster, who helped the New Zealand junior surf lifesaving team to an historic world title in Adelaide in early November.
Wellington 17-year-old Kingi, meanwhile, pulled away on every leg with the Otaki club member finishing in 2:45.12, more than 7mins ahead of her nearest rival, Lyall Bay 15-year-old Loredana Unsworth, with another Otaki clubbie Ruby Hikuroa third in 2:53:48.
Despite her youth, it’s been a steady progression for Kingi; third in her individual debut in 2016, second to Rachel Clarke last year and now breaking through for the win.
“It’s been a big buildup but I’ve been figuring out race plans, how to pace it and what I needed to work on,” Kingi said. “It’s been a long process because it’s such a different race from any others we do in surf lifesaving but I’m really stoked to win and it’s pretty cool to join the likes of (previous winners) Danielle McKenzie and Kirsty Wannan.”
Miller has been focusing on triathlons this year, after his breakthrough Monster win in 2017, and it showed with a withering opening 5km run.
“It was an insane pace on the run - Hamish went off like a bullet,” Fitzroy star Collins said. “I went for it at the start but when Hamish started to pull away, I slowed and Declan caught up and we started working together.”
The pair continued to work together through the swim and had closed the gap at the start of the 12km ski, with Collins pulling ahead of Miller and Dempster chasing hard.
Collins won the Coolagatta Gold short course title in Australia in October - Dempster was seventh - and appeared to have the endurance needed until late in the board leg, when the young Taranaki lifeguard hit the wall.
Dempster rode the roars of a big home crowd - and the lure of a $10,000 prize pool - home for the victory.
“Our performance at worlds really set me up for this and the race has got some pretty good loot on the line which really keeps you going when it gets hard!”
It proved a good day for Wellington athletes, with Lyall Bay’s Pippa Nicol winning the under-14 Mini Monster, ahead of Lucy Bartlett (Omanu) and Talitha McEwan (Papamoa), while
Mitchell Bark Riki (Mount Maunganui) won the boys’ Mini Monster, from Mairangi Bay’s Cameron Gilmore and Orewa’s Kailen Brackenbush.
Men: Declan Dempster 2hrs 20mins 57secs 1, Joe Collins 2:21:12 2, Hamish Miller 2:23:37 3, Luthe Maxwell 2:27:53 4, Tanner Baxter 2:31:48 5, Jonathan Reshef 2:31:56 6, Kit Jones 2:32:02 7, Thomas Cole 2:32:28 8, Scott Cowdrey 2:33:33 9, Ruben Bronlund 2:34:29 10.
Women: Ella Kingi 2:45:12 1, Loredana Unsworth 2:52:29 2, Ruby Hikuroa 2:53:48 3, Alex Edmonds 2:57:45 4, Lizzy Bunkenburg 2:57:52 5.