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40 Frames: South Island Grom Series Westport

Westport turns on the sunshine for Round 2 of the 2021 South Island Grom Series with a stacked field of entrants from Dunedin, Kaikoura, Christchurch, West Coast, Raglan and Tairua.

The Tauranga Bay contest site. Photo: Derek Morrison

Presented by Best Wash Systems, the Westport round of the South Island Grom Series is fast becoming a favourite thanks to the friendly locals and generous spirit of Buller Boardriders. The idyllic location of Tauranga Bay never disappoints with waves in the 1-3 foot range throughout the two days of competition.

This year the grom series dovetailed into the Cape Classic making for a three-day 100+ heat contest schedule and some very long 12 hour days for the crew. Apart from the odd technical issue the event ran like clockwork.

Koby Cameron on form in the early rounds. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Under 18 Boys was an all Christchurch affair in a challenging finals day lull at T Bay. Myka Black managed to find two waves toward the end of the heat and make enough of them to take a 12.1-point win. Hot on his heels was Koby Cameron, who’d been one of the form surfers of the whole event. Cameron’s 10.9 heat total staved off James Millar on 9.53 and Jack McKenzie’s 7.47.

“That last heat was average as,” offers Black afterward. “The bay went flat for the whole heat, but I managed to get those last two waves at the end. Luckily, it was enough to bring me the win. I haven’t been in a comp in awhile and had some terrible heats. But I’m happy to come away with the win this time.”

The Under 18 Girls final saw local Lydia Hawes backing up her third at the opening round in Dunedin and trying to capitalise on a round without multi-national champion Ava Henderson present. But Hawes’ plan was upset by the tricky conditions and an in-form Anika Ayson, who continued her hard-charging into the final to take a win with a 10.4 heat total. Ayson’s score bettered that of second placed Tui Rudolph’s 9.6 and Leah Wilson’s 9.1 in third.

“Before my heat I was quite nervous,” admitted Ayson. “I didn’t quite know where to sit as the peak tended to shift in and out a lot. I ended up getting busy on the inside and getting a few scores while trying to keep the inside position of the rights. With a few scores and time remaining I decided to sit further out and try to get a few set waves. It tested my patience, but in the end it paid off as I caught a few double-up rights which the judges seemed to like.”

“It ended up being such a fun week away with pumping waves before the comp and hot sunny days,” continues Ayson. “It was so much fun travelling with Jaya (Reardon) and worth being crammed into a 4m by 4m motel room with the family. It was sick to surf T Bay pumping and uncrowded before the comp with Jaya pushing me to surf better in the free surfs. I’ve always to loved Westport and its wild waves.”

Anika Ayson, U18 winner in Westport. Photo: Derek Morrison

Another top contender missing from the Westport contest was Christchurch’s Eloise Addison who suffered a concussion in the lead up to the event and was forced to rest for a week.

The Under 16 boys continued to see close battles with Tyler Perry, of Kaikoura, and Jake Owen, of Dunedin, going wave for wave. Perry had been the form surfer in the early rounds and managed to find the waves he needed in the dying moments of the heat to get the better of Owen, 12.1 to 9.5. Round 1 winner Jack McKenzie, of Christchurch, came up a wave short and had to settle for third ahead of Tom Robertson, also of Christchurch.

“I’m super stoked – that final was so close and everyone was surfing really well,” offers Perry. “I just snuck through with a couple of my last waves, which I am happy about.”

“At the start of my heat I was thinking about surfing the inside shorey section, but then all the other guys paddled out the back and so I went out the back, too. Luckily I got a bomb right and got a good turn and took it into the inside. So I just got heaps of waves on the inside, built up and by halfway through the heat I already had six waves. So I went out the back and got one good left that I think changed my outcome for the heat.”

“Westport is one of my favorite waves on the circuit – we always get good waves and its a left and I’m a goofy so that’s always good,” smiles Perry.

Tyler Perry claiming his first win of the season in the Under 16s. Photo: Derek Morrison

It was 12-year-old Poppy Entwistle, of Christchurch, who stormed the castle in the Under 16 Girls surfing with a smart heat strategy and the wave-finding ability of a magnet. Entwistle’s 9.17 heat total was too much for Misha Peyroux, of Dunedin, to chase down as the bay switched banks with the tide. Peyroux’s 8.9 held off crowd favourite and local girl Lenka Cargill with Dunedin’s Bella Burns making her first finals appearance finishing in fourth.

“I decided to sit on the inside in my Open Women’s final after checking out back at the start of the heat,” recalls Entwistle. “I decided that it was fat and it took a while for sets, while there were steep fun waves on the inside. As the Under 16s final was one heat after I decided to stick with that plan.”

“It was a nerve racking heat,” she continues. “I managed to get to some scores at the start, then I tried to improve them. But one of my toughest competitors, Misha Peyroux, was dropping some good scores so I went to go sit on her. Competing against the older girls pushes me to surf my best. My goal in the grom series is to win the under 14 title and to get top four in the Under 16s.”

Manu Roberts, of Tairua, finds a decent left at T Bay. Photo: Derek Morrison

North Island surfer Manu Roberts, of Tairua, worked his way into the Under 14 Boys final with some solid surfing throughout the event. With family links to Westport he was joined by Benji Lowen, of Christchurch, and Dunedin duo Alexis Owen and Round 1 winner Lewis Murphy in the final. But Lowen proved too strong, taking the win with a 12.6 heat total to better Owen’s 10.4. Murphy finished third with 9.33 and Roberts took fourth with 8.9.

Entwistle wasn’t able to repeat her Round 1 win in the Under 14 Girls, stopped in her tracks by a determined Tessa Gabbott, of Dunedin. Gabbott’s 8.33 heat total was enough for the win ahead of Entwistle’s 6.5, Lenka Cargill’s 3.6 and Pipiata Ritchie’s 2.43 in a wave-starved heat. Gabbott and Entwistle are now tied in first place on the table heading into Round 3 – the Duke Festival.

Rising grom: Benji Lowen, of Christchurch. Photo: Derek Morrison

Christchurch’s Benji Lowen continued to show dominance in the Under 12 Boys winning his lead-up heats with the only heat scores in the division to break through the 10-point barrier all weekend. His final was no exception with a very challenging lineup offering very few scoring chances, but Lowen managed to win with a heat total of 11. In second and third the battle raged between Sonny Lyons, of Kaikoura, and Jack Higgins, of Dunedin. Lyons’ 7.67 enough to give him the edge over Higgins’ 7.17. Ryder Townsend finished in fourth place.

With some seriously good prizemoney on offer the Under 12 Girls category saw a last-minute surge in numbers. Making the final was Anika Rudolph, of Christchurch, joining Lola Murphy, Zara Owen and Pipiata Ritchie, of Dunedin. Taking the win in the tightly contested final was Ritchie, just pipping Owen by a 0.1 and with Rudolph third and Murphy fourth also just separated by a 0.1.

The contest site. Photo: Derek Morrison

Gallery: South Island Grom Series, Westport

Full Results 2021 South Island Grom Series
Tauranga Bay, Westport, January 30, 2021

Under 18 Boys
1. Myka Black, North Wai, 12.1
2. Koby Cameron, North Side, 10.9
3. James Millar, North Wai, 9.53
4. Jack McKenzie, North Side, 7.47

Under 18 Girls
1. Anika Ayson, South Coast Boardriders, 10.4
2. Tui Rudolph, North Wai, 9.6
3. Leah Wilson, North Wai, 9.1
4. Lydia Hawes, Buller Boardriders, 6.9

Under 16 Boys
1. Tyler Perry, Kaikoura Surf Groms, 12.1
2. Jake Owen, South Coast Boardriders, 9.5
3. Jack McKenzie, North Side, 8.5
4. Tom Robertson, North Wai, 6.1

Under 16 Girls
1. Poppy Entwistle, Point Surf Team, 9.17
2. Misha Peyroux, South Coast Boardriders, 8.9
3. Lemnka Cargill, Buller Boardriders, 5.5
4. Bella Burns, South Coast Boardriders, 5

Under 14 Boys
1. Benji Lowen, Point Surf Team, 12.6
2. Alexis Owen, South Coast Boardriders, 10.4
3. Lewis Murphy, South Coast Boardriders, 9.33
4. Manu Roberts, Tairua, 8.9

Under 14 Girls
1. Tessa Gabbott, South Coast Boardriders, 8.33
2. Poppy Entwistle, Point Surf Team, 6.5
3. Lenka Cargill, Buller Boardriders, 3.6
4. Pipiata Ritchie, South Coast Boardriders, 2.43

Under 12 Boys
1. Benji Lowen, Point Surf Team, 11
2. Sonny Lyons, Kaikoura Surf Groms, 7.67
3. Jack Higgins, South Coast Boardriders, 7.17
4. Ryder Townsend, Point Surf Team, 0

Under 12 Girls
1. Pipiata Ritchie, South Coast Boardriders, 5.1
2. Zara Owen, South Coast Boardriders, 5
3. Anika Rudolph, North Wai, 3.5
4. Lola Murphy, South Coast Boardriders, 3.4

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