Teen unicyclist makes her mark
Sam La Hood is one "wheely" good unicyclist.
The Dargaville High School pupil has quickly proven herself to be one of the country's top unicycle pros by recently winning the title of best female unicyclist in the open street category at the Australian National Unicycle Championship.
"It's got me really excited for the world champs," she says.
Sam, 15, attended the champs last month in Melbourne alongside mentor and friend, world unicycling champion Chris Huriwai from Kaikohe.
She speaks highly of her coach and mentor: "He's been my inspiration for doing this."
Sam trains once a week alongside her mentor in his hometown and practises "whenever I can".
She credits her high school for allowing her to practise on schoolgrounds during break-time.
Sam says one of the things she loves about the sport is that "anywhere is your playground" and she encourages other girls to take up the male dominated sport because it really is, "just awesome".
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Sam says she first took up the sport two years ago after giving it a shot and "failing miserably".
"I was at a Circus Kumarani Festival and I tried unicycling and it was so hard and because of that my stubbornness kicked in and got me to stick at it, so that I became competent in it," she says.
But she faces her biggest challenge yet when she heads to Italy in July to compete in Unicon 16, the 16th unicycling convention and world championships.
It attracts hundreds of riders from all over the world.
Sam will join four other riders from Northland who make up the New Zealand team including Daniel Wade, 16, from Baylys Beach, and world street unicycling champ Christian Huriwai from Kaikohe.
But she needs to raise $4000 to fund the trip and to do so has been selling unicyclist calendars at the Riverside Markets in Dargaville.
The calendars were Christian's brainchild and feature the young team photographed by freelance photographer Jenny Atkins on their unicycles around the areas they live in including Baylys Beach, Riverside Gardens and the brightly painted walls outside the art department at Dargaville High School.
The fundraising calendars can be bought from Jenny Huriwai, Circus Kumarani, 14 Parenga St, Dargaville, call 4395152.
Large ones $25, small ones $15.