Wildcard birthday present thrills Sarah

BY MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2010
Sarah Mason and Stephenie Gilmore
ANDY JACKSON/Taranaki Daily News

DOUBLE TRIUMPH: In a full-beam Taranaki sunset at Fitzroy Beach, three-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore presents Sarah Mason with her trophy for winning the New Zealand women's open surfing title at New Plymouth's Back Beach yesterday. The win, and a wildcard entry to the Dream Tour event, was the perfect birthday present for the 15-year-old Mason.

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Birthday girl Sarah Mason couldn't have wished for a better present.

A wildcard entry to this week's ASP women's tour event was the ultimate prize for the 15-year-old who yesterday won the New Zealand open women's title at New Plymouth's Back Beach.

And the wildcard entry pitches the former Taranaki lass into a heat battle with three-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and Hawaii's Carissa Moore. "It's exciting. I've never surfed against any of those girls (the Dream Tour), I'll just try to do my best," said the pint-sized teenager.

Asked if she was nervous about lining up alongside the world champion, Mason replied: "I probably won't get too much sleep. It's cool. Conditions were good out there today, good clean, consistent waves. About three foot. It was real good surf."

Struggling to lift the stone trophy, Mason first thanked her family for bringing her across the Tasman from their home in Cabarita, New South Wales, to compete in the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival.

"I'm really happy with the win. It's always hard coming up against my sister (20-year-old Airini), but we've been battling each other in competitions for a while. We always pat each other on the back."

The two sisters will be battling one another again today when the Australasian girls' pro junior under-21 surfing series gets under way. Gilmore welcomed the four finalists – Mason, her sister Airini, Wini Paul and Mt Maunganui's Laura Rishworth – to the stage yesterday afternoon.

The Dream Tour, involving Gilmore and Taranaki's Paige Hareb, could start today if conditions improve. The event needs about two days to be completed with five days surfing available until the event ends on Friday. Venues are decided daily.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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