It was a battle of the airs that determined the first leg of the Billabong Grom Series presented by Oceanbridge held at Mount Maunganui over the weekend. Australian Rico Haybittle stole the show in the premier Under 18 Boys Division. Haybittle was joined by Piha’s Leia Millar who went back-to-back in the Under 18 Girls Division after winning the National Championships two weeks ago.
The surf remained small at Mount Maunganui for the final day of the event with a sleepy ocean under the 1.0m mark. Light winds helped conditions most of the day before the northerly picked up late in the afternoon prior to the finals turning the ocean ugly.
Haybittle laid down the challenge on his first wave of the final with a full rotation air reverse to score a 7.67 point ride. Up on the next wave Tao Mouldey went to the air on his backhand with his own version, landed but fell on the rotation out of the manouvre. It was a pivotal exchange that set the tone of the final with the Kiwi boys chasing Haybittle for the remainder of the 20 minutes.
Haybittle closed out the final with another air reverse late in the heat for a 7.77 point ride and 15.44 heat total.
Local surfer Joe Goodjohn ended up getting the nod for a runner-up finish with Mouldey finishing in third and Whangarei surfer Cooper Ashill taking fourth, his first final in over a year.
Leia Millar’s win in the Under 18 Girls Division came from another great start to the final, the Piha surfer posting a 6.5 point ride on her first wave. Millar looked strong all day, finding links on waves and enabling her to connect several turns together in the challenging conditions.
Pia Rogers (WGM) finished in second place in the final by the closest of margins over 14-year-old Poppy Arkle (Piha) in third and Sophia Brock (Mnt) in fourth place.
2024 National Women’s Champion Maya Mateja (Rag) won the Under 16 Girls Division fighting her way to an 8.9 point heat total to edge past age group champion Alani Morse (Rag) who finished in second place. Chloe Groube (Pau) placed third in the final with Kyra Wallis (Piha) finishing in fourth place.
Local surfer Tyler Stenzel continued his good run of form in home waters to win the Under 16 Boys Division. Stenzel won the last national event held in the Bay of Plenty and this weekend surfed to 14.20 points for the win over Dunedin surfer Alexis Owen. The exciting final saw some outstanding exchanges between the two front runners with Stenzel’s connections in the blownout waves, getting him the nod.
It was Owen’s second runner-up finish in as many weeks as he held off an in-form Zade Pitkeathly (Mnt) who finished third on 11.43 points and Sam Frazerhurst (Auck) who finished in fourth.
The Volkswagen Highest Single Wave Score Award went to Rico Haybittle for his perfect ten point ride in the Under 18 boys Semifinals after completing a series of searing forehand turns oozing speed and innovation.
Full results and rankings can be viewed at www.Liveheats.com/SurfingNewZealand.
Mount Maunganui is the first of three of the most popular events in the country with the series carrying on to Whangamata (10-11 February) and Piha at the end of February (24-25 February).
The 2024 edition of the series draws on a long history of fun with all of New Zealand’s elite surfers having taken part including Richard Christie (Gis), Paige Hareb (Tara), Billy Stairmand (Rag), Mount Maunganui’s own Kehu Butler and Ella Williams (WGM).
It is the nineteenth year that Billabong has sponsored the series in partnership with Oceanbridge who have been a proud long-time supporter of junior surfing in New Zealand.
For further information on the 2024 Billabong Grom Series presented by Oceanbridge please contact Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
High resolution action images of the surfing at all events on the Billabong Grom Series will be available to media free of charge. Please contact Ben Kennings for further details.
Generous support from Billabong and presenting sponsor Oceanbridge has made this series possible.
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Author: Ben Kennings