Surfing: Bay surfers off to winning start

Mount Maunganui's Kehu Butler and Raiha Ensor won their respective divisions at the first event of the 2013 Billabong Grom Series held at Mount Maunganui.

In good 1m waves with light onshore winds, Butler won his first title at Under-16 level while Ensor won the Under-14 girls title, ahead of her fellow Mount Maunganui surfers Maaia Reid-Bennett, Kea Smith and Tiana Breeze-de Mooj on Sunday.

The diminutive Butler has won multiple titles in the lower age groups in the past two years but this win is his finest yet. It also came after he was runner up in the Under-14 boys division earlier in the day - a result he wanted to rectify in the Under-16s.

"I tried to push myself a bit more in the 16s after I lost in the Under-14s and it paid off with that good ride I got at the start," said Butler referring to the 9.0 point ride he surfed on his first wave.

"I thought I was going to get a good score for it and when it came through as a nine it allowed me to work on getting a back-up wave and increasing my lead for the rest of the final. I want to take the series out and this start has given me a good platform to work from."

Butler finished with a 15.47-point heat total to beat runner up Te Rapai Barbarich-Love from Waitara, who had looked lethal throughout the event with his energetic style suiting the mushy waves on offer.

Australian-based national champion Korbin Hutchings placed third in the final scoring 11.13 behind Barbarich-Love's 11.57.

Ensor made up for a semifinal loss in the Under-16 girls division by winning the Under-14 title with an 8.83 point total out of a possible 20. She used her powerful backhand to rack up the points and finish ahead of Reid-Bennett who was second, with Smith third and Breeze de Mooj in fourth.

Gisborne's Jasmine Smith went one better than her 2012 result in winning the Under-16 girls division. The Under-18s national champion dominated the final scoring 11.67 points out of a possible 20.

"It is pretty good to win, the surf was really tricky so I am lucky to take it out," said a modest Smith. "All the other girls were surfing well today so I am looking forward to heading to the next event at Whangamata in a few weeks' time and doing the best I can again."

Piha surfer Claudia Fraser came second in the final, her best result in the division. Mount Maunganui's Elin Tawharu was third with Abby Falwasser-Logan from Gisborne fourth.

Tane Bowden from Whangamata put the acid on his opponents in the Under-14 Boys final when his first two rides posted 6.20 and 6.83, which set up a comfortable win with Butler second on 10.33 points. Bowden finished with a 13.03-point heat total to win his second final of the day after earlier taking out the Under-12 division with a 12.80-point heat total. Bowden's superior wave selection saw him able to complete several big turns on his waves finishing each powerfully on the inside section to beat his closest rival in ex-Mount Maunganui local Kaya Horne, now based in Australia. Horne posted 9.40 points in the final.

Sonny Rapira-Martin from Taranaki was third in the final after face-planting the sand during practice in the morning. Mount Maunganui's William Van Der Beek came in fourth.

Zhana Hutchieson from Taranaki dominated the Under-12 girls, surfing aggressively to score 8.73 points and claim her first win at a national level, ahead of Gisborne's Staffi Vette with Iritana Butler from Mount Maunganui third and first time finalist Stella Smith from Gisborne fourth.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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