Southern surf athletes fans of climate change

By Allison Hess

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Pippa Sparrow enjoys competing in Bay waters. Photo/Andrew Warner
Pippa Sparrow enjoys competing in Bay waters. Photo/Andrew Warner

Two young surf lifesavers travelled over 1000km to compete in the Under 14s Championship at Mount Maunganui over the weekend.

The duo from Brighton Surf Club in Brighton, just south of Dunedin, travelled the most out of almost 900 other competitors from 42 clubs nationwide.

Pippa Sparrow, 13, and Maia Iaseto, 12 competed in the water events in the Oceans 16, in water that was around 7C warmer than the chilly South Island surf.

"It's really nice. We don't have to wear wetsuits so it's a bit easier," Pippa said.

"No need for hot showers or big jackets to keep warm between events," her mother and team manager Sue Sparrow said. The water at the beach where the girls trained was usually around 16C at this time of year, Ms Sparrow said.

Pippa Sparrow enjoys competing in Bay waters. Photo / Andrew Warner
Pippa Sparrow enjoys competing in Bay waters. Photo / Andrew Warner

Warmer conditions were not all the young surf lifesavers had to adjust to.

"There's a lot more shells here and the sand is much more coarse than the beach down South," Pippa said.

Her feet were covered in bandages after being cut on the sharp shells on the shore.

Ms Sparrow said the girls were used to big surf, but not "dumping" surf like at Mount Main Beach. She said in Brighton Pippa was usually one of the first ones to get out on her board but here she had a bit of a struggle.

The mother and daughter flew to Auckland from Dunedin and rented a car to drive to Mount Maunganui for the four-day event, saying it was "a long way to go" and the logistics of getting the boards was a struggle. Luckily, St Clair Surf Club in Dunedin let them piggyback and send a board up in their crate.

Ms Sparrow said it was worth the distance, "it's a good experience for the kids."

"Every time they're in the water it's a learning experience."

The championship was one of Surf Life Saving's biggest events and encouraged children to pursue a future in life guarding with fun activities and challenges.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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