New Zealand’s “Ultimate Waterman” Event Scores $1.2 Million Funding


Connor Baxter won the long distance race during the 2015 Ultimate Waterman event in New Zealand

Connor Baxter won the long distance race during the 2015 Ultimate Waterman event in New Zealand


New Zealand’s ‘Ultimate Waterman’, the event that attempts to crown the best all-round “waterman” in the world while also showing off the country’s beautiful coastline, is going next level next year, with organisers securing funding of $1.2 million.

As first spotted by The Inertia, the Ultimate Waterman organisers announced the new funding at their 2016 public launch yesterday.

The $1.2 million is coming entirely from the New Zealand government, which sees the event as priceless tourism marketing. The Ultimate Waterman is held along NZ’s world class coastlines, while the whole show is filmed by the acclaimed Red Bull Media House, which will be airing the highlight reels on

The funding is for the next three years, giving the event an annual budget of at least $400,000 (and there will probably be more sponsorship revenue on top of that). Although this is much more than just a stand up paddling event, looking at it within our sport that would make The Ultimate Waterman one of the best-funded events in the world.

For context: The Battle of the Paddle usually cost around $400k before it shut its doors this year, while its replacement, the Pacific Paddle Games, reportedly came in around $300,000 in its first outing. The ISA Worlds apparently costs anywhere from $400k up close to a million dollars, depending on location and setup.

So with a world-class event budget, I guess we can expect a pretty good show from The Ultimate Waterman next year. The event has another huge bonus in that only about a dozen athletes are involved, which makes it far more manageable than the average stand up paddle race. That also means the media production will be able to focus exclusively on the very best athletes.


Manoa Drollet in action during the 2015 Ultimate Waterman event in New Zealand

Manoa Drollet in action during the 2015 Ultimate Waterman event in New Zealand


The Ultimate Waterman is a multi-sport event that features several different surfing and paddling disciplines, with results combined onto an overall leaderboard. Athletes get to nominate one discipline (i.e. their best discipline) that’s worth double points just for them.

Local boy Daniel Kereopa won the inaugural edition earlier this year, defeating the likes of Kai Lenny and his fellow SUP superstars Connor Baxter, Danny Ching and Georges Cronsteadt, along with a handful of surfing luminaries.

Daniel is confirmed to return along with Connor, Danny and Georges, while Brazil’s all-round superstar, Caio Vaz, is also on the ticket. No word on whether Kai will be returning but given Red Bull’s involvement I wouldn’t be surprised. Also confirmed for 2016 are big wave surfers Mark Visser, Kala Alexander and Manoa Drollet.

It’ll be cool to see if other top stand up paddlers, such as world number two Travis Grant, get the nod. Though given the mix of events, you don’t necessarily have to be a SUP specialist to win this thing.

The 2016 event, which runs from March 12-20, will feature two new disciplines alongside the six from earlier this year:

SUP Surfing
SUP Long Distance Race
Outrigger Canoe Race
Shortboard Surfing
Longboard Surfing
Big Wave Surfing
Prone Paddleboarding (new)
Underwater Strength Run and Swim (new)

Yeah, it’s gonna be a fairly tiring week, and whoever wins is going to seriously deserve the title.

Here’s the 2016 preview clip, and below that we’ve got some highlight reels from 2015.