The northern end of Makorori Beach, Gisborne dished up perfect waves for the country's top young surfing talent as they took to the first day of the Sticky Johnson Primary School Championships presented by Skullcandy on Saturday.
Waves up to 1m peeled along the beach with clean offshore winds, conditions being big enough for the top juniors and a sound challenge for the younger participants and first timers competing at this level.
Two of the three round-robin legs were completed with the top surfers slowly making their way to the head of the field.
Christchurch surfer Ava Henderson came into the event as a 2016 finalist and one of the favourites and her performances today were exceptional as she walked away with two wins and 20 valuable points towards finals qualification.
Henderson was competing in the Year 7 and 8 Girls Division and notched up the highest heat score of the day in the first round – 16.33 out of a possible 20 points. She backed that up with a 15 point heat total in the second.
“It has been really fun and the waves have been fun. I have been going ‘good', I have had two firsts so far,” she says.
“I like the round robin format because if you don't do well in your first heat you don't get knocked out and you get another chance and that builds your confidence.”
Henderson was joined by Natasha Gouldsbury (Levin) as the only two surfers that won both of their heats in the division on the first day.
The Year 6 and Below Girls saw seven-year-old Alani Morse (Orewa) claim two wins against her older counterparts. The diminutive young surfer rode some amazing long lefthanders all the way from out the back. Other heat wins went to Sophia Brock (Mount) and India Kennings (WGM).
It was a new face to the national scene that stole some of the limelight in the Year 7 and 8 Boys Division, with Whangarei surfer Te Kauwhata Kauwhata running away with two wins from two on day one.
“Waves have been epic, they have been so good,” says Kauwhata, admitting it is pretty nerve racking competing at the event.
“Especially when you know you are going up against the best surfers in New Zealand. But I have had two firsts so far so I have been going well and I am looking forward to Sunday.”
Kauwhata was joined by two top juniors, one from the North Island and one from the south. Raglan's Navryn Malone looked sharp in both of his performances as a stand out for the day while Christchurch surfer Dara O'Malley claimed two comfortable victories.
The three surfers were pushed by a number of new participants including the likes of Luke Rogers (Dun), Campbell Heasley (Chch), Riku Gordon (Mahia) and Tai Erceg – Gray (Whangarei) who had impressive performances.
The most well participated Year 6 and Below Boys Division saw heat wins going to eight different surfers but there were four surfers that stood out with ‘two-from-two'. Taj Dal Bosco (WGM), Cooper Ashill (Whangarei), Jack Tyro (Chch) and Theo Morse (Orewa) all go into day two with the maximum 20 points from the first two rounds.
Others to impress included Tao Mouldey (TGA), Kauai Rahui (Whangarei), Benny Kassel (Gis) and William Blair (TGA) who took a heat win each.
The groms were stoked out by the appearance of New Zealand's most celebrated surfer, Maz Quinn, who was onsite to hand out a bunch of Sticky Johnson product and stickers.
The final leg of the round robin will take place this morning before the event heads into the semi-finals and finals. Surfers will be hunting out the final points on offer to make the semi-finals of the boys division and the finals of the girls divisions.
A decision on the finals-day location will be made first thing in the morning once an assessment of the conditions has been completed.
Year 7 and 8 Boys Division (after two rounds)
1, Navryn Malone (Rag), 20
1, Dara O'Malley (Chch), 20
1, Te Kauwhata Kauwhata (Whngrei), 20
4, Luke Rogers (Dun), 14
4, Liam Heasley (Chch), 14
4, Tai Erceg-Gray (Whngrei), 14
4, Riku Gordon (Mahia), 14
4, Campbell Heasley (Chch), 14
9, Jai Wallis (Auck), 11
10, Jack Mckenzie (Waikuku), 8
10, Hue Cowie (Gis), 8
12, Mathias Thompson (Auck), 5
12, Tiger West-Hill (Gis), 5
12, Ollie Holland (Rag), 5
15, Dale Cromhout (HBay), 2
15, Noah Porter (Gis), 2
15, Geordie Sawyer (Gis), 2
Year 6 and Below Boys Points (after two rounds)
1, Taj Dal Bosco (WGM), 20
1, Cooper Ashill (Whngrei), 20
1, Jack Tyro (Chch), 20
1, Theo Morse (Orewa), 20
5, Tao Mouldey (Mnt), 17
5, Kauai Rahui (Whngrei), 17
5, Benny Kassel (Gis), 17
5, William Blair (TGA), 17
9, Indica Corcoran (Mnt), 14
9, Taj Robinson (Mangawahi), 14
11, Toby Porter (Waipu), 11
11, Beau Woods (Mnt), 8
11, Asher O'Donnell (Whngrei), 8
11, Jack Canavan (Waikuku), 8
11, Ollie Hansen (Mnt), 8
11, Isaiah Backhouse (Waipu), 8
11, Benjamin Porter (Waipu), 8
18, Hunter Lynch (Gis), 5
18, Max Phillips (Gis), 5
18, Braedon Webster (Ohope), 5
18, Jacob Walker (Mnt), 5
22, Hugo Emerre (Gis), 4
23, Matteo Bec (Chch), 2
23, Jett Dalton (Gis), 2
23, Shea Ferguson (Gis), 2
26, Daniel Ryan (Gis), 1
27, Tai McKenzie (Chch), 0
Year 7 and 8 Girls Points (after two rounds)
1, Ava Henderson (Chch), 20
1, Natasha Gouldsbury (Levin), 20
3, Anna Brock (Mnt), 17
3, Liv Haysom (Piha), 17
5, Amelie Wink (Chch), 14
5, Lily Robertson (Chch), 14
7, Jay Ryan (Gis), 8
7, Trinity Smith (Mangawhai), 8
7, Jess Haysom (Piha), 8
Year 6 and Below Points (after two rounds)
1, Alani Morse (Orewa), 20
2, India Kennings (WGM), 17
3, Sophia Brock (Mnt), 14
3, Amanda Gouldsbury (Levin), 14
5, Ariana Walker (Mnt), 8
6, Millie Backhouse (Waipu), 5
6, Savanna Cromhout (Hbay), 5
6, Torah Kennings (WGM), 5