Mount Maunganui surfer Raiha Ensor has claimed the open women's division of the Rip Curl Pro to lead the New Zealand Surf Series rankings.
Ensor was among New Zealand's top surfing talent competing at the Rip Curl Pro, held at Raglan's Manu Bay on Saturday and Sunday. Raglan's Billy Stairmand won the open men's division final to lead the men's rankings after three of seven events this year.
The Rip Curl Pro is the first of four straight legs of the New Zealand Surf Series with rankings set to change considerably over the next month after the series frequents Dunedin, Christchurch and then returns to Raglan.
Day one of the weekend's event saw a clean 1.5m swell wrapped around the point breaks, with perfect offshore southeast winds for much of the day. Ensor, a New Zealand representative, dominated her division from the beginning to dethrone four-time defending champion Ella Williams from Whangamatā.
The final ended up being pretty close with Ensor getting the nod over Gisborne 17-year-old Saffi Vette, 13.9 to 13.47, who fell midway through the final.
Ensor says she had been taking inspiration from Stairmand in the build-up to the event to help with her performances.
"I was feeling good going into this weekend. I have been working with Billy all [last] week sponging up his knowledge of the break here as well as focusing on how to construct a good heat strategically," Ensor says.
"The last comp Ella beat me and I only needed a mid-range score to win that event so I was pissed off with myself but I have been working on getting back-up waves and I am stoked that I got a seven and six early in the final this weekend, which was a half decent heat total that I could defend instead of chasing down the win.
"These events are good practice for the World Qualifying Series events and especially this one because it always has the hardest field of surfers, getting to surf against the likes of Ella is awesome because she isn't always competing in New Zealand."
Vette placed second, which followed the same placing at the National Championships held in Taranaki in January. Williams finished third in the final ahead of Raglan's Jessica Santorik in fourth.
The Rip Curl GromSearch Finals were claimed by replacement surfer Jack Lee from Whakatāne and Raglan's Brie Bennett.
Open women's division final
1st: Raiha Ensor (Mount Maunganui), 13.9; 2nd: Saffi Vette (Gisborne), 13.47; 3rd: Ella Williams (Whangamata), 12.3; 4th: Jessica Santorik (Ragland), 11.03.
Open men's division final
1st: Billy Stairmand (Raglan), 16.44; 2nd: Luke Cederman (Raglan), 13.9; 3rd: Daniel Farr (Taranaki), 12.83; 4th: Luke Hughes (Raglan), 12.53.