Finals Day for the Under 18s, 16s and 14s at the 2024 New Zealand Surfing Champs reveals an historic moment.
This is the sharp end of the contest for the juniors, made even more incisive by the fact a win here gives you automatic entry into the New Zealand surfing team. It’s big stakes stuff. The judges wielding full power as they see fit.
Imagine how it must have felt for Arataki’s Taimana Marupo, who pulled a contest rashie on for the first time ever just a few days previous. The 15-year-old won every heat as he worked his way through the Under 16s field, only to narrowly miss advancing through his semi-final match-up. He made sure he didn’t make the same mistake in his Under 18 campaign – winning five heats from five starts … including the final.
“I’m super stoked, it’s crazy, it doesn’t feel real,” offers Tai. “I got that last wave and heard I got the lead and I was just waiting for those last minutes to go by and I was like, man, just hurry up.”
“Yeah of course I was thinking about winning when I was coming down here,” Tai admitted. “My first heat I was real nervous, but after that I felt much calmer.”
Taimana Marupo finished with a 12.95-point heat total for the win. Ohope surfer Tai Murphy finished second in the final with double finalist Alexis Owen in third place and Spencer Rowson finishing in fourth place after receiving a controversial interference call.
In the Under 18 girls it was the super-talented Piha surfer, Leia Millar, who claimed the title with a 14.0-point heat total in the small 1m waves. Two excellently executed backhand waves in the second half of the final were enough to put a considerable gap between her and her opponents.
“At the start we were all getting four point rides then I managed to get one with a good section and I was really happy about that,” admitted Millar of her first 7.0 point ride, which she backed up with a 7.1 point ride. “I am really happy to get the title this year and super stoked for it to be in the Under 18 Girls.”
Millar’s good friend Pia Rogers finished in second place in the final after leading the early stages while Sophia Brock finished in third ahead of Poppy Arkle in fourth.
Coffs Harbour-based Benji Lowen clinched the Under 16 Boys Division title after tying with defending champion Alexis Owen. Lowen’s 7.70-point ride was the highest of the final and that gave the talented goofyfooter the nod. Benji’s highest score came with a critical two-turn combo tight in the pocket on his forehand that wowed the judges and ultimately edged him past Owen.
Owen had to settle for second place with Under 14 Boys Champion Sol Fritchley just behind him in third and Remy Sale in fourth.
Alani Morse defended her title in the Under 16 Girls Division, after being the surfer to watch throughout the early rounds. Despite a slow start in the final, Morse found her rhythm late with a 7.0 and 6.60 point rides. Alani’s backhand came to the fore again with strong powerful turns as she pushed the boundaries for the girls.
Pauanui surfer Lola Groube finished in second place in the final with Maya Mateja in third and the oldest of the Groube sisters Chloe, finishing in fourth place.
Another dominant surfer throughout the early rounds Sol Fritchley claimed the Under 14 Boys title in a battle of epic proportions with defending champion Vitor Bauermann. The pint-sized Sol got the nod 16.15 points to 15.90 points.
Ahipara’s Kentaro Mitchell finished in third ahead of Zac Becroft in fourth.
Dunedin surfer Zara Owen won the Under 14 Girls Division with a 17.5 point heat total. Pipiata Ritchie (Dun) finished in second place with Jade Phillips in third, Nami Marsden in fourth and Mikayla Secord in fifth.
The Volkswagen Highest Single Wave Score of the Day went to Sol Fritchley for the second day in a row after posting not one, but two 9.75 point rides in his semi-final heats. It was a fitting testament to his consistency and endurance throughout the 2024 Nats.
Here are 40 Frames from the Day of the Groms.