Two-time defnding champion Ethan Halliwell will look to make it three Wairua Warrior titles in a row this weekend at Happy Valley and book his place to the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Vancouver, Cananda later this year. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

Wairua Warrior champ facing plenty of obstacles


Two-time defending Wairua Warrior champion Ethan Helliwell is a man with a lot on his plate.

The 25-year-old former Waimea College pupil knows some international names are looking to take his title this Saturday, as the event in Happy Valley has been given qualification status for the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Vancouver this year.

Ethan Helliwell with his training partner for the Wairua Warrior, his dog, Brian. Photo Jacob Page.
Ethan Helliwell with his training partner for the Wairua Warrior, his dog, Brian. Photo Jacob Page.

Ethan has been starting work at 5.30am and training for this Saturday’s race until dark.

His partner Alysia Simkin is also competing in the event and the duo are putting the finishing touches to her new coffee cart business that she will debut on the day.

“After we are finished we’ll both be in there making coffees, so it should be a fun day,” says Ethan.

The annual Wairua Warrior event near Cable Bay is a 12km course for elite athletes with undulating terrain, a river, natural and man-made obstacles and lots of mud.

There will be obstacles ranging from balance beams to barbed wire crawling, to sandbag carries, climbing walls and tyre drags.

Ethan is a man who loves the mental challenge of keeping going when the energy tank is empty.

“You can’t plan for this event, I know the terrain but most of the course is a hidden secret.

“The pain isn’t going to last forever,” he says. “There are times when you’re out and you still have two kilometres to go, but for me, I just think about it as seven minutes of effort and then I have the rest of the day to rest.”

Ethan, a former New Zealand junior downhill mountainbiker, says he’s expecting plenty of sandbag drills but his aim is to win and get one of 10 spots for the World Championships in Vancouver.

The only company Ethan on his training journey is his dog Brian.

He says the Nelson/Tasman region is one of the best places to train for such an event.

Waimea’s teenage Coast-to-Coast two-day champion Cameron Jones will be one of the big challengers to Ethan’s crown.

Race organiser Greg Witika says entries are up to 550, more than 100 up on the event in 2017.