Ella Williams our Young Person of the Year
Ella Williams - WT Young Person of the Year
As an eight-year-old, Whangamata's Ella Williams wrote on her bedroom wall that she wanted to be a world champion.
As an 18-year-old, she is, after a remarkable against-the-odds victory in the 2013 women's world junior surfing championship in Brazil.
The sweet-natured teenager's exploits in November have seen her nominated for a Halberg Award in the Emerging Talent category.
It was an unthinkable victory for Williams, who made it into the competition only after a fellow competitor pulled out a week and a half before.
"We really just took that golden ticket and ran with it," Williams said.
"I was just going off adrenaline and anything was a bonus for me, I was just stoked to be there.
"I was taking everything in - the culture, the people - and the surf competition, I just wanted to learn from it."
Making the win even more remarkable was that all the other surfers turned up with their coaches and nutritionists, with Williams just having her mum, Janine, on board.
Williams might have several sponsors, but her family are still her main one.
"A lot of people do have coaches, and that may work for them, but for me, I've got the best family support, my mum, my dad [Dean] and my brother [Braedon], and they've been there from day one," Williams said.
"They've always trained me, we've always fed off each other, we're always helping each other out."
Living in Hamilton and beginning with a bright pink board as a 4-year-old at Raglan, Williams moved to Whangamata at age 7, with her parents buying the Whangamata Surf Shop.
That building now sports images of a world champion, and all four family members work in there and run lessons.
A junior grom programme for young surfers recently started in Whangamata and the numbers have swelled since Williams' return.
Like Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore are to her, Williams wants to be an inspiration to others.
She has always written motivational messages to keep herself positive and believing she can achieve big things.
And Williams is not content with resting on this latest success.
"Anything's possible now. This is just a great confidence boost," she said. Thriving on competition, Williams always believed the thought of a little Kiwi girl winning the world title wasn't too far fetched.
"It was really weird, in the middle of the heat of the final, I was sitting there and only small scores were coming through, and I thought 'Man, I could actually win this'. And I fully pictured myself on the podium holding up the trophy."
When that moment actually transpired, Williams said she was "quite numb", with the victory not fully sinking in until her return home, which featured a parade in Whangamata.
"It was a surreal feeling. It was crazy . . . but it was a very special moment."
With a top-three finish at the world juniors, Williams has cemented her place at the 2014 event, while also giving herself a helping hand in the Qualifying Series for the World Tour, where she will be placed in the round of 60 for the eight events, rather than the round of 88.
While she said travelling around the world had been a huge eye-opener and a big learning curve, she is delighted to be back home and having a break.
"I've been to many places around the world this year, and nothing has beaten home, by far.
"We're lucky enough to have Whangamata Bar pretty much on my back doorstep. It's a perfect left-hander, it's so much fun. When it's on, the wave is just world class."
- Waikato Times