Groms Overcome Nerves as they Eye Major Prize

Stakes were firmly planted in the ground by New Zealand’s top young surfers today (Saturday 4th March), as they vie for invites to the International Rip Curl GromSearch Final.

For day one of the Rip Curl GromSearch being held at Fitzroy Beach, New Plymouth, the surf remained in the 0.5m range all day.  The southwest onshore winds made it a challenge most of the day.  However, there was enough swell for the early rounds of the Under 17 Boys and Girls Divisions to be completed, the winners of which will represent New Zealand at the international final at a yet to be disclosed location.

The top seeds all advanced through their respective heats and will continue their campaigns early on Sunday morning with a significant increase in swell expected.

Ohope surfer Jared Gebert was the top scoring surfer of the day using his East Coast small wave skills to maximum potential.  Gebert posted a 17.3 point heat total in his heat to advance.

Above: Lee Ririnui - Photo: COL/

“For sure I was so happy with my heat score” said Gebert post heat.  “Conditions remind me of home a lot to be honest, I have surfed those conditions heaps of times, you just have to keep busy and try and find waves” he added.

Like most of the groms attending the event this week, Gebert wants to see the expected swell arrive for the final day and he expects it to be a little more fun than today.

Gebert has already represented New Zealand once but is well aware of the enormity of a win this weekend.  “I know everyone wants to win that trip, it would be crazy to surf with the best from around the world.  It would be so sick to win” he said.

Gebert was joined by a number of top performing seeds in the opening round including number one seed Elliott Brown (Dun), Luke Griffin (Mnt), Caleb Cutmore (Ham), Jay Piper Healion (Whiti), Lee Ririnui and Dylan Preston (Mnt) who all won their heats to advance to the quarterfinals.

Raiha Ensor (Mnt) won the two most recent editions of the Rip Curl GromSearch and today it was her fellow Mount Maunganui surfers the shone in the afternoon conditions.  Kea Smith surfed to the highest heat score of 13.33, advancing through to the semifinals alongside Tiana-Breeze de Mooij who posted 11.84 points.  Elin Tawharu also advanced out of the first heat just edging local surfer Zhana Hutchieson who also moved through.

“The conditions were very challenging so I knew I had to work hard in my heat and hunt for descent waves and yeah, I’m pretty happy to make it to semis, let's hope tomorrow is a bit better” said a relieved Hutchieson.

It’s her final year in the Under 17’s and like Gebert, the chance to represent New Zealand, should she win the Under 17s, would be a massive opportunity.

Above: Saffi Vette - Photo: COL/

“I've been wanting to represent New Zealand in the International Rip Curl GromSearch for ages.  My last couple of events haven't gone in my favour so maybe this time, especially in front of my family, that would mean a lot winning in front of them” added Hutchieson.

The final heat saw double national champion Saffi Vette (Gis) advance along with last week’s finalist Aimee Brown (Gt Barrier).

The Under 12 Boys Division saw Raglan’s Navryn Malone advance through to the semifinals with a polished performance. 

Malone regularly surfs in the Under 14 Boys Division but today got the chance to surf in the Under 12s quickly posting a 12.63 point heat total to progress alongside Ryder Pennington (Tara).  The two surfers look like early favourites for the division. 

Others to also advance included Kalani Watts (Tara), Jack Mckenzie (Waiuku), Kalani Louis (Tara) and Indica Corcoran (Mnt).

Action will take place from 8:00am – 3:00pm on Sunday at Fitzroy Beach.