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Matt Sutton and Christchurch members with the board his company Sonic Surf Crafts donated. CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand
The start of the under-13 girls surf race. CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand
Whangamata's Madison Kidd celebrates her under-14 beach sprint win.. CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand
Brighton's Bailey Brandham in the under-13 diamond race. CREDIT: Surf Life Saving New Zealand
Papamoa and Red Beach shared top honours after a gripping final day at the Oceans 11 Under-14 National Surf Life Saving championships in Mount Maunganui yesterday.
Papamoa trailed Red Beach by four points heading into the final two events but picked up a second in the under-12 Cameron relay and a fighting third in the under-14 Cameron relay to draw level.
It was the perfect way to end an exciting four-day carnival which had everything, from huge early surf and white-hot beach action, to ideal half-metre swells on the final day.
Red Beach junior chairman Mark Scheib was delighted with how things turned out for his 52-strong contingent.
"It's the first time we've ever claimed top spot and we're more than happy to share the win with Papamoa," Scheib said. "We've slowly built up and we've got lots to look forward to next year."
In sharing the title, Papamoa claimed back the overall title they last held in 2009. The Bay of Plenty club did so with one of their smallest teams, but the 43 athletes chipped away at podium spots.
They were boosted on the last day by wins to Mason Bryant in the under-14 boys surf race, a brilliant double by under-11 Aidan Smith in the beach sprint and board race and twin wins to Malia Josephson (under-12 board) and Mitch Cowdrey (under-11 diamond race).
Red Beach under-11 girl Jade Tuilaepa was one of the stars of the carnival, winning the surf race, board race and diamond race on the last day, adding to her earlier beach flags win and a third in the run-swim-run.
Brighton's Bailey Brandham started a superb run for smaller clubs, with the Dunedin 13-year-old winning the surf race and diamond race double.
He was matched by Hannah Williams (Mangawhai Heads) who picked up identical wins in the 13-year-old girls division.
Conor Bradding (Whangamata) had the most memorable win of the day, vomiting at the start of the under-11 boys surf race but fighting back to win in a dramatic sprint finish from Papamoa's Mitch Cowdrey.
"I wasn't nervous but I felt sick on the sideline and they asked me if I wanted to pull out. This is my best race though and I wasn't going to miss the chance," Bradding told an enthralled post-race audience. "I led around the cans and managed to keep in touch and I really gave it everything on the line."
He then backed it up by finishing second in the diamond race.
Waikuku's Hosea Watson won the under-12 beach sprint but his fellow Cantabrian Brittany Tucker had the best sentimental win of the day.
The 14-year-old claimed gold for the quake-damaged Sumner club in the diamond race, then was present at the closing ceremony to receive a board signed by all 750 athletes at the carnival on behalf of her club.
Gisborne surf craft manufacturer Sonic donated the board after last week's devastating earthquake in Christchurch, leaving Tucker jubilant.
"This week has been so great - clubs have given us gear when we didn't have it and they've been really supportive," Tucker said. "It's lifted our spirits for sure and we've had such a good time."
Mount Maunganui, led by 12-year-old dynamo Hamish Miller, finished third on 44 points, ahead of Midway (31), Omanu (30) and Whakatane (23.