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South Island Grom Series Fires Up In Dunedin

Rewa Morrison and Jack Tyro have taken out the premier Under 18 divisions at the opening round of the 2022 South Island Grom Series held in Dunedin at the weekend.

Alexis Owen on form at St Clair. Photo: Derek Morrison

The event is a welcome back to competition for the younger surfers after Covid scuttled both the Scholastics Surfing Championships and the Primary School Surfing Championships in 2021. It was also the first event where a vaccine pass had to be scanned before an athlete could collect their competition rashy. The ruling follows guidance from Surfing New Zealand, which is following advice from Sport New Zealand.

Apart from a few last minute vaccine completions the management of the vaccine passes went smoothly, albeit with a reduced field. That was partly because of SISA’s new and controversial strategy to reduce event management fatigue by culling the Under 12 category completely, and partly due to less traveling surfers from the North Island, including a large contingent of unvaccinated surfers. The only North Island surfer in the contest was Mount Maunganui ripper Beau Woods. In previous years the North Island contingent has been significant – especially in the finals.

The event also welcomed in new series sponsor: The Connect Group. The Connect Group offers a diverse range of services from concrete repairs to seismic strengthening, passive fire protection, protective coatings and fireproofing coatings, bringing a solution-focused and innovative approach to their work. They also love surfing.

Beau Woods settling into the SISA grom comp nuances. Photo: Derek Morrison

While Aramoana presented the best option for waves with a 2-3 foot swell feathered with a stiff offshore for the entire Saturday, organisers opted for St Clair instead. The waves ranged from 1-3 foot and, despite the light onshore, were completely contestable until the southerly whipped in around 1pm. By 3pm the contest was off with just the finals to play out the following morning when conditions were looking good for St Clair again. A 7am start was called to avoid the treacherous high tide that St Clair has become renowned for.

Hard to catch: Under 14 Boys winner Alexis Owen. Photo: Derek Morrison

It always impresses me that no matter what the conditions are like the best surfers always rise to the top. That’s what happened in the Under 14 Boys division with Alexis Owen continuing his impressive surge to take a convincing win. Testament to his skill and wave knowledge , Alexis was posting 5s and 7s when his competition was scratching for 4s. In second Jack Higgins turned all his hard work over winter into a solid result to hold Kaikoura’s Sonny Lyons at bay. In fourth, Lachlan Noakes made his finals debut in the grom series.

Poppy Entwisle was the form surfer throughout the Under 14 competition, but got lost at sea in the final. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Under 14 Girls saw two mates: Westport’s Lenka Cargill and Dunedin’s Tessa Gabbott, go head-to-head yet again, dispatching form surfer of the division, Poppy Entwisle, in the process. Tessa was able to back up her best waves to take the win by .03 over Lenka who managed to find a 5.87 – the best wave of the final, but missing a back up wave. Poppy had one of those finals she’d rather forget, finishing third with Tessa Langman in fourth.

Rocco, putting the final nail in the coffin. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Under 16 Boys featured one of the most exciting battles of the whole comp. Waikuku surfer Rakiatea Tau and Dunedin’s mega-grom Alexis Owen led the battle with Sumner’s Jack Tyro and Papamoa’s Beau Woods completely in the hunt for the full 20. Alexis had the upperhand into the dying moments of the heat when Rakiatea “Rocco” picked up a right that turned into a creative surfer’s dream – handing Rocco a full over vert reo into a rare barrel section. The judges liked it. It was as close to a seven as that heat would see and Rocco took the win from Alexis. One of the form surfers of the event, Jack Tyro settled into third with Beau Woods in fourth – 5.83 in his clutches, but lacking a back up.

Poppy Entwisle raceface. Photo: Derek Morrison

Still smarting from her Under 14 final experience, Poppy Entwisle came out blazing in her Under 16 final. She’s one of the most clinical surfers to emerge from Christchurch and opened with a 5.17 with a 4.20 shortly after to seal the deal. Local surfer Misha Peyroux, also surging as an athlete right now, found a 5.93 – the best wave of the heat, but couldn’t find a back up to displace Poppy. In third, double finalist Sari Ayson announced she’s ready for finals battles with her spirited approach, bettering Lenka who fell one wave short in her final campaign.

Jack Tyro was clinical in his Under 18 win. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Under 18 Boys final saw familiar foes Jack Tyro, Rakiatea Tau and Jake Owen joined by the vastly improved George Roberts, of Christchurch. But Jack Tyro, who had been turning heads throughout the event, posted consistently good scores to be able to control the final. This time, Rocco was left chasing and was forced to settle for second with local Jake Owen leaving his run to the last minute and ultimately playing catch up. Jake ended up third with George in fourth.

Rewa Morrison gets a turn in under the lip as the high tide backwash bites on Saturday. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Under 18 Girls saw Sari Ayson jump quickly into the lead with a 5.0 that shows her work ethic over winter. Rewa Morrison was quick to respond with a 6.10 that she quickly backed up with another long left that put her into a commanding position in the final – her first double digit score. In the closing moments local Misha Peyroux surfed on rail for her best wave and the best wave of the final with a 6.67, but without a back up was left more than two points adrift of Rewa’s 10.63. Sari’s 7.53 placed her third with Amelie Wink, of Christchurch, in fourth.

Contest director, Dave Entwisle, relieved to have his first big comp under his belt. Photo: Derek Morrison

Full respect has to be paid to SISA’s frontman, contest director, Dave Entwisle for his running of the first major grom series competition of the year. There were a lot of tough calls to be made, but ultimately the surf contest experience was bang on … and I know he managed to get a few waves at Aramoana.

It would be great to see the Under 12 exclusion be reviewed by SISA given the turndown in competitors – especially given Surfing New Zealand expects its vaccine recommendations to result in a 30 percent reduction in numbers across surfing. If that’s accurate, and it seems it is, then that would give SISA an extra 2.4 hours up its sleeves each contest day. I certainly liked that Dave was able to make the call to halt competition, with a day up his sleeve. It starts to feel like the emphasis is on the best waves and that’s got to be a good thing in this sport.

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