Teen rides out wave of protest

Paige Hareb has been harassed as local surfers get upset at the ASP tour this weekend. File Photo
Paige Hareb has been harassed as local surfers get upset at the ASP tour this weekend. File Photo

It was visualised as the happiest of homecomings for Paige Hareb, but New Zealand's pioneering female surfer instead seems certain to venture into troubled waters off her beloved Taranaki coast this weekend.

The addition of Fitzroy Beach to the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) women's world tour was intended to pay homage to the 19-year-old's success - and to encourage the next generation to follow in her wake.

Instead, the event has splintered the province's surfing community to such an extent Hareb has been harassed, anti-tour graffiti adorns grass at Fitzroy while surfers, angered by being denied access to waves between Sunday and next Friday, have threatened to disrupt it by paddling among the competitors.

Hareb, who became the first New Zealander to make the 17-strong elite women's tour last year, arrived home on Tuesday aware the pressures will not only be exerted by her rivals during the third leg of the nine-stop tour.

In February, while surfing another home break at Stent Rd with Peru's former world champion Sofia Mulanovich, the teenager was harangued by a local surfer upset the ASP tour was headed to the region. The controversy illustrates the emotiveness often associated with surfing - a standoff which pits "free surfing" traditionalists against a corporate venture which they believe betrays the sport.

Hareb's father, Mike, was a driving force behind the tour stopping off at Taranaki for the next two years and has been disappointed by the adverse reaction.

"Surfing seems to bring out localism in places around the world," said Mike Hareb, the president of Surfing Taranaki. "Some people think like that, they're against the tours and the ASP. We hope it won't be disrupted.

"If there's one or two or more that want to get involved in protesting, well, there's security in place to deal with that sort of thing."

Debate over the ASP event has polarised opinion, particularly on the NZ Surfing magazine website where the topic had attracted 177 comments, mostly unfavourable.

"When I first heard the ASP are bringing the tour to Taranaki, I was super excited," wrote Ida Staunstrup Moore. "Then I started to think about the consequences of our region being exposed to the world surfing community via international webcast.

"Potentially millions of people will watch the event and if only a fraction of these surfers decide to travel to Taranaki to surf, this will increase the numbers of surfers on the coast exponentially. It concerns me that no environmental impact assessment has been done before inviting the ASP to our shores."

However, Mike Hareb doubted any negative impact would result from the webcast coverage.

"The internet has been around for 15 years. All the surf breaks have been publicised for all that time.

PAIGE HAREB

Born: New Plymouth, June 6, 1990
Height: 165cm
Weight: 58kg

In December 2008, Hareb became the first Kiwi female surfer to qualify for the ASP World Tour also known as "The Dream Tour". Last year she reached the semi-finals of the Roxy Pro in Coolangatta, Australia.

Source: Wikipedia

- NZPA

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