Elin Tawharu wins bronze at world junior surf champs

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Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu, 15, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. Photo/Isa/Rezendes
Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu, 15, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. Photo/Isa/Rezendes

Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu won a bronze medal at the 2016 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship completed in the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal yesterday.

The 15-year-old surfer is the first Kiwi in nine years to reach the podium at the event with her third place finish in the Under 16 Girls Division.

The result has helped New Zealand finish 10th overall, jumping up the rankings five places from 2015, when they finished 15th at the event held at Oceanside Beach, California.

Mount Maunganui's Raiha Ensor could not emulate Tawharu's success and was eliminated in the semifinals of the Under 18 Girls Division, finishing in a respectable seventh place overall.

Kehu Butler also finished seventh in the Under 16 Boys Division.

Tawharu found herself in a battle for the silver medal behind American surfer Caroline Marks with Australian surfer India Robinson and Ellie Turner (UK).

As the final hooter sounded, it was Robinson that edged out Tawharu for second, scoring 7.93 to Tawharu's 5.17, Turner finishing in fourth on 2.44 points.

"I am so stoked," an elated Tawharu said.

"My goal was to get a top 10 finish so I am just so stoked to make the final and get a bronze medal.

"It hasn't quite sunken in yet. It's coming though, bit-by-bit. I am over the moon; I can't believe it. It was so cool to be up on the podium. I am so proud to rep my country and my team.

TOP CLASS: Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu, right, won a bronze medal at the 2016 World Junior Surfing Championship PHOTO/ ISA/Rezendes
TOP CLASS: Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu, right, won a bronze medal at the 2016 World Junior Surfing Championship PHOTO/ ISA/Rezendes

"I couldn't have done it without them and the coaches and everyone who supported me.

"It is a long event and a long week of surfing, especially with the differing conditions we have experienced this week but once I made the last 16 surfers was about when a berth in the finals was a reality," she said.

The last time that New Zealand made the podium was also in Portugal in 2007.

The New Zealand Team finished fourth that year, with Matt Hewitt (Mount Maunganui) placing third in the Under 16 Boys Division and Paige Hareb (Tara) finishing fourth in the Under 18 Girls Division.

Ensor had her chances to repeat the feats of 2007 and get two New Zealand surfers on the podium but the large swell and relentless close-outs got the better of her.

"It was my goal to make the semifinals, but, unfortunately, I made some mistakes during my heat which prevented me from going further," she said.

"It was a low scoring heat and I only needed a high three-point ride to advance. I took off on one that looked all right to give me the score with six minutes or so to go but the wave went a bit wobbly so I pulled off to try get another.

"I was greeted by a massive set of waves so I didn't have time to pick up a wave at the end of the semifinal."

Ensor has one more year left in the Under 18 Girls Division and before next year's World Junior Champs, she is hoping to contest more international events to improve her surfing in competitions so that she can "hopefully go one heat better next year and make the final".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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