Mount surfers drive NZ team at worlds

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Kehu Butler in form at junior world surfing champ. PHOTO/FILE
Kehu Butler in form at junior world surfing champ. PHOTO/FILE

Mount Maunganui surfers have helped drive the New Zealand Junior Surfing team back in to the top ten of the 2016 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship after a successful day of competition held overnight.

The New Zealand team progressed four of the five remaining surfers through their rounds. The team now finds themselves in a close race for points with six other teams slightly ahead and behind them.

Notably all five Kiwi surfers contesting their heats overnight were from Mount Maunganui.

The event is being held in the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal and has two days remaining before four individual medallists and the overall team champions are confirmed.

The Kiwi girls find themselves in the quarterfinals of the event after Raiha Ensor (Mnt) advanced in the Under 18 Girls Division and Elin Tawharu advanced in the Under 16 Girls Division.

Kea Smith (Mnt) was the unfortunate casualty of the day contesting her heat with Elin Tahwaru but she was unable to make it a one-two heat for the Kiwis and finished fourth in the heat and 25th overall.

Ensor caused one of the major upsets of the day eliminating event favourite Mahina Maeda (HAW) in a low scoring tight heat. Ensor placed second in her heat to advance to quarterfinals alongside Vahine Fierro (TAH).

Ensor has only just finished competing for the New Zealand Open Team in Costa Rica and the international experience has paid off for the young surfer. She placed 22nd in Costa Rica and will improve on that result in the Azores this weekend.

Elin Tawharu (Mount) dominated her match up posting an 11.86 point heat total for a comfortable victory, advancing to the quarterfinals with Ellie Turner (UK). This is Tawharu's third appearance at the event with her previous best result being a 13th in 2014, a feat she can surpass overnight tonight with a good performance.

The two remaining boys, Kehu Butler and Kaya Horne who grew up surfing together at Mount Maunganui, also advanced out of their Under 16 Boys Division match ups.

Butler held on to an advancing position for the latter stages of the heat posting a heat-high 6.60 point ride before finishing the heat with a 5.17 point ride and 11.77 point heat total.

"The surf has dropped a bit so I knew that I needed to catch the best waves in order to make it through the heat," Butler said on the conditions.

"I watched it for two hours then I sat by myself on this one peak to make things less of a hassle and manged to get a couple fun ones to win.

"I am super stoked to have the cuz (Kaya Horne) in the next round with me. Hopefully we can keep going in the event."

Gold Coast based Horne won a particularly close heat advancing to the next round with Japanese surfer Yuji Nishi.

Horne stamped his mark on the heat with an air reverse late in the heat to claim the win, together with the Japanese surfer eliminating one of USA's biggest hopes Kade Matson.

"It was good to ride out of that air reverse after I blew the alley-oop before. When I rode out of the air I could hear the team going off on the beach," said Horne.

"I am quite slight and on the bigger waves it is harder for me to do turns compared to the bigger guys so I am stoked to make it through to this stage of the event and I look forward to the next round tomorrow.

Team Points
2 FRANCE 9140
3 HAWAII 8385
4 JAPAN 7610
5 BRAZIL 6600
6 TAHITI 6367
7 USA 6090
8 SPAIN 5966

- Bay of Plenty Times

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