Taranaki is gearing up for the arrival of surfing's biggest and brightest with the TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Festival kicking off this weekend.
Seventeen of the world's best female surfers will grace Fitzroy Beach for the fourth stop in the seven-leg ASP Women's World Championship (WCT) tour, the Dow AgroSciences Pro.
The festival also includes one of the most significant surfing competitions for Kiwi women, the ITL NZ Women's Open.
Starting on April 2, the Open gives the winner a wildcard entry into ASP Dow AgroSciences Pro and an opportunity to compete against the best.
The wildcard aspect of the ITL NZ Women's Open had always provided some real surprises in the three years it had been staged in New Zealand, event organiser, Craig Williamson from Surfing Taranaki said.
"In the first year of the festival, 15-year-old Sarah Mason won the Open, then rocked the surfing world when she beat world champion Stephanie Gilmore in her second- round heat," Mr Williamson said.
"Sarah then made it all the way to the semifinals before being knocked out, an amazing achievement for such a young surfer."
Mason thrived on the experience and her surfing career took off from there, winning the Open again in 2011 and making it on to the World Tour in 2012.
In 2012, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for another young Kiwi surfer when 16-year-old Gabby Sansom won the Open and went on to compete in the Dow AgroSciences Pro.
"These events are all about helping Kiwi women surfers be all they can be," Mr Williamson said.
"Last year we created New Zealand surfing history when we had three Kiwis competing in an ASP WCT event for the first time.
"Coming up against the world's best means you have to lift your game, and to date that is what we have seen."
The Dow AgroSciences Pro is held as the culmination of the 10-day TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Festival running from tomorrow to April 7.
Based at Fitzroy Beach, the TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Festival will include the Powerco Micro-Groms for all surfers aged under 11, the Hareb Deken MotorGrom competition for boys and girls under 16, as well as the Corona Easter Masters, which is celebrating its 21st year as an event.
The Masters will run from tomorrow to Sunday, the Grom Comp from Saturday to Sunday, the Micro-Groms on Monday alongside a Beach Carnival at Fitzroy, and the NZ Women's Open Wildcard Trials will be on Tuesday followed by the ASP Women's World Tour event from Wednesday to April 7.
Surfers can enter any of the events by simply registering at the website for the Festival, www.nzsurffestival.co.nz
- Taranaki Daily News
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