Top groms hit Mount as contest series cranks up

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IN FORM: Double national champion Elin Tawharu is in action at Tay St, Mount Maunganui this weekend. PHOTO/FILE
IN FORM: Double national champion Elin Tawharu is in action at Tay St, Mount Maunganui this weekend. PHOTO/FILE

The Billabong Grom Series presented by Oceanbridge roars into action at Mount Maunganui this weekend with surfers from the length of the country hitting town for the two-day event.

A staple for junior surfers, this year's three-event series also comprises rounds at Whangamata in February and Piha Beach, Auckland in March, showcasing the best young surfers in New Zealand in the under-20, under-17 and under-14 age brackets.

After the New Zealand surfing community converged on Dunedin for the national championships in mid-January, this weekend's event will be a welcome return to warmer climes.

The North Island has been bathed in sunshine and warm water over the past week and the weekend has a clean swell forecast with residual waves from Cyclone Victor, which has everyone surfed-out after the past 10 days.

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Recently crowned national champions will be contesting the event this weekend, including under-18 boys champion Elliot Brown (Dunedin), who will surf in the under-17 boys' division. Brown took his opponents by surprise in his hometown, blazing all the way to the final and a coveted title. He has now made the journey north for his first tilt at the Billabong Grom Series.

Local surfer Elin Tawharu (Mount) won the under-16 and under-18 girls' divisions at the nationals. Tawharu has been in great form of late and will be joined by her equally able Mount Maunganui mates who will have home advantage this weekend.

The Mount contenders include Kea Smith who achieved three runner-up finishes in Dunedin - unable to get past Tawharu in the age group divisions - and Ella Williams (WGM) in the final of the open women's competition, Williams going on to win her first national championship.

The youngest champ crowned at Dunedin was Whangarei's Thomas Robinson, who will also be present this weekend and will lead a large field of surfers under the age of 14.

Robinson finished ninth in the series in 2015 but with a number of surfers moving up a division and a national title to his name already this year, he will have many of the other surfers watching his every move.

This weekend has additional flavour with the Billabong Girls Get Out There Day taking place alongside the event.

Females who have never given surfing a go have the chance to get professional surf lessons, followed by yoga sessions - and they get to take home a goody bag as well.

Sessions take place at 10am and noon on Saturday and Sunday, with limited spaces available on both days. Those interested can register online via the Billabong website.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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