Bronze Medal for Elin Tawharu at World Juniors

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mount Maunganui surfer Elin Tawharu claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship completed in the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal in the early hours of Monday morning (26th September NZT).

The 15-year-old surfer is the first Kiwi in nine years to reach the podium at the event with her third place finish in the Under 16 Girls Division.

The result has helped New Zealand finish tenth overall, jumping up the rankings five places from 2015 when they finished in 15th place at the event held at Oceanside Beach, California.

Raiha Ensor could not emulate Tawharu’s success and was eliminated in the semifinals of the Under 18 Girls Division finishing the event in a respectable seventh place overall.

A powerful new swell hit the Azores Islands for the final day of the event with a clean 2.0m swell pounding the beach break and making conditions challenging for all surfers.

American surfer Caroline Marks ran away with the Under 16 Girls Division final to claim the gold medal finishing with a 14.5 point heat total.  However, Tawharu found herself in a battle for the silver medal with Australian surfer India Robinson and Ellie Turner (UK). 

Both Tawharu and Robinson spent considerable time stuck on the inside of the beak unable to get out in to the line-up after surfing their best waves while Turner was stuck out the back trying to find a decent wave. 

As the final hooter sounded, it was Robinson that edged out Tawharu for second scoring 7.93 to Tawharu’s 5.17, Turner finishing in fourth on 2.44 points.

“I am so stoked” said an elated Tawharu post final.  “My goal was to get a top 10 finish so I am just so stoked to make the final and get a bronze medal” she added.

“It hasn’t quite sunken in yet, its coming though, bit-by-bit, I am over the moon, I can't believe it.”

“It was so cool to be up on the podium, I am so proud to rep my country and my team. I couldn't have done it without them and the coaches and everyone who supported me.”

Tawharu said she started to feel like she could make it happen and surf through the field of 52 surfers and in to the finals at about the quarterfinals stage.  “It is a long event and a long week of surfing, especially with the differing conditions we have experienced this week but once I made the last 16 surfers was about when a berth in the finals was a reality” she said.

The last time that New Zealand made the podium was also in Portugal in 2007.  The New Zealand Team finished fourth that year with Matt Hewitt (Mnt) placing third in the Under 16 Boys Division and Paige Hareb (Tara) finishing fourth in the Under 18 Girls Division.

Raiha Ensor had her chances to repeat the feats of 2007 and get two New Zealand surfers on the podium but the large swell and relentless close outs got the better of Ensor as she hunted for whatever peeling wave that came through but to no avail.

“It was my goal to make the semifinals but unfortunately I made some mistakes during my heat which prevented me from going further” said Ensor.  

“It was low scoring heat and I only needed a high three point ride to advance. I took off on one that looked alright to give me the score with six minutes or so to go but the wave went a bit wobbly so I pulled off to try get another and was greeted by a massive set of waves so I didn't have time to pick up a wave at the end of the semifinal” added Ensor of how the semifinal unfolded. 

Seven-time event veteran Leilani McGonagle (CRC) claimed the semifinal with a 17.33 point heat total while French surfers Juliette Brice and Nina Reynal placed second and third respectively.  Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy went on to win the final over McGonagle.

Ensor has one more year left in the Under 18 Girls Division and before next year’s World Junior Champs, she is hoping to contest more international events to improve her surfing in competitions so that she can “hopefully go one heat better next year and make the final”.

Please see below for results from the final day of competition held at Praia do Monte Verde on the Azores Islands overnight Sunday (NZT).

Team Points
1 FRANCE 6725
3 HAWAII 5925
4 JAPAN 5468
5 USA 5450
6 BRAZIL 4988
8 TAHITI 4512
11 PERU 4178
12 SPAIN 4116
14 PORTUGAL 3528

Under 16 Girls Division Semifinals
Heat 1
Caroline Marks, USA, 10.2, 1, Elin Tawharu, NZL, 8.86, 2, Alyssa Spencer, USA, 7.23, 3, Nadia Erostarbe, ESP, 6.57, 4

Under 16 Girls Division Finals
Caroline Marks, USA, 14.5, 1, India Robinson, AUS, 7.93, 2, Elin Tawharu, NZL, 5.17, 3, Ellie Turner, GBR, 2.44, 4

Under 18 Girls Division Semifinals
Heat 2
Leilani McGonagle, CRC, 17.33, 1, Juliette Brice, FRA, 7.14, 2, Nina Reynal, FRA, 4.9, 3, Raiha Ensor, NZL, 4.53, 4

Overall New Zealand Placings
Under 18 Boys
Jonas Tawharu (Mnt) 33rd
Manu Scott – Arrieta (Sandy Bay) 49th
Lee Ririnui (Mnt) 97th
Daniel Farr (Tara) 97th

Under 18 Girls
Raiha Ensor (Mnt) 4th
Britt Kindred (Mur) 41st

Under 16 Boys
Kehu Butler (Mnt) 7th
Kaya Horne (Gold Coast) 13th
Elliot Brown (Dun) 37th
Jared Gebert (Ohope) 37th

Under 16 Girls
Elin Tawharu (Mnt) 3rd
Kea Smith (Mnt) 25th

The World Junior Surfing Championships is an annual event having been held since 2003.  New Zealand has competed at the event since its inception as well as competing at the World Grommet Titles as it was formerly known since 1989.