Rip Curl GromSearch in Taranaki nurtures surfing talent
Taranaki has produced another surfer to watch as the country's best gathered in the region at the weekend.
Tom Butland, of Oakura, won the under 14-year-old boys category of the Rip Curl GromSearch which was held at Fitzroy Beach on Saturday with the finals at Back Beach on Sunday.
Surfing Taranaki chief executive Craig Williamson said the competition was held all over the world to find the sport's up and coming talent.
"This is the qualification event to represent New Zealand at the international final in Hawaii in May," Williamson said.
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"The winner of the under-17 boys and girls will represent New Zealand at the event.
"It's huge because they are going to be competing against the best in the world."
Williamson said there were 92 entries, across all divisions for the event, from right around New Zealand.
While 13-year-old Butland didn't get a trip to Hawaii he was still chuffed with the result.
"It's awesome," Butland said.
The year-9 New Plymouth Boys' High School student, whose favourite surfers were Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning, said he would like to be a pro-surfer in the future.
"It's a good step towards that."
Mt Maunganui's Kehu Butler, who had been surfing on the World Surf League Australasian Pro Junior Series in Australia, won the under-17 boys division, while Taranaki's Daniel Farr, who had also been taking part in the series, placed second and Waitara surfer Reef Matthews third.
Butler said he was super stoked to have the opportunity to represent New Zealand in Hawaii.
"It felt good to win a competition again, it's my first this year," he said.
Butler said he and Farr were good mates.
"We compete all of the time overseas in the Pro Juniors and it was good to have another match-up with him in the finals."
Farr said he was pleased with his result.
"I was really stoked to make the final, it's a great competition and it was a great feeling to make the final," he said.
"It's always tough going into a final with Kehu."
Farr said it was good for Taranaki surfers to have the competition on their home patch.
"Some of the boys can't travel so they get the chance to shine."
Matthews, the son of former national champion Jason Matthews, said he still hoped to make a New Zealand team in the future.
Williamson said the event could be the launching pad for New Zealand's next surfing superstar and he was impressed with the talent on display.
"It's getting better every year.
"We see it as really important to give them this opportunity, it's all about encouraging them to have a go."
Williamson said the event was held in perfect conditions and he was pleased with the support it received with a large crowd gathered on the beach and others lining the cliff top watching.
"It shows it doesn't have to be a world tour event to attract interest."