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The Women's Division of the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro got underway at Makorori Beach, Gisborne today (Saturday 25th February) in trying conditions with under 1.0m of swell and strong southerly winds.
Despite the below par conditions and a delayed midday start, New Zealand's top rated females dived into competition with current ratings leader Ella Williams (WGM) coming out on top in the heat of the round scoring 13.0 out of 20 points.
Williams, the winner of the most recent New Zealand Pro Series event at Whangamata, was explosive in the small crumbly lefthanders posting 8.67 points on her highest scoring ride for a series of fast forehand turns.
"It just jacked up on me that one and I was like oh this is a good little section and I got those good turns in" Williams said of her best ride.
Williams needs to progress through one more round to make her third consecutive final. "Yeah yeah, I just have to keep going through my next heat to make the final and I just need to stay consistent to do that, consistency is the key."
Williams again competed in the Under 20 Men's Division where she progressed through to the quarterfinals of the division. She admits it is not nice for the boys to be beaten by a girl but Williams is most definitely taking each boys division heat seriously just as much as using them as a warm up for her Women's Division heats.
Grace Spiers was another Whangamata surfer to move through to the semifinals scoring 10.83 which she was pleased about after describing her recent results as "disappointing".
"I am just stoked to make a heat. I know I can make the finals, I just need to find the right waves and a bit of rhythm" added Spiers.
National Champion Thandi Durham (Tara) rounded out the winner's dais for the girls.
"It was pretty bad out there but I am really looking forward to the semis tomorrow, it is supposed to be better tomorrow so hopefully there will be some good surfing" said Durham who has been practicing in similar conditions at home in Taranaki with small waves limiting their practice to the beaches in Taranaki.
Late in the day the Under 20 Men's Division saw the welcome return of Alex Dive (Mnt) and Johnny Hicks (Gis) to the fray. The two surfers are the best in the country for their age group and have been competing over in Australia most of summer.
Dive won his heat scoring 10.93 out of 20 points to progress to the semifinals as did Hicks.
Dive was impressed with the young guys coming through but also wary that the likes of himself and Hicks had to front with good performances after having been competing in the tough Australian competitive environment.
"It is pretty awesome to come back and see these young guys like Sean Kettle, Elliot (Paerata - Reid) and Dune (Kennings) coming through so it is good to surf against them but in Aussie it is a way more competitive and different scene. Me and Johnny are saying we gotta make the final, we can't lose to these young guys but we will see how we go."
As Dive highlighted the recent performances of the young guys it put a voodoo spell on them with winner of the most recent event, Sean Kettle (Tara) losing in the quarterfinals along with Kennings who fell to Hicks and Paerata - Reid (Piha).
Other surfers to impress in the Under 20 Men's Division included Ben Poulter (Rag), Joe Moretti (Mimiwhangata) and Tane Wallis (Piha) who all progressed through to the semifinals.
The early rounds of the Open Men's Division surfed late in the day with all the top seeds of the event set to enter the water on Sunday for a big day of competition.
The swell is expected to improve for the second and final day of the event with lighter winds and a cleaner swell. A full day of surfing will be required to finish the event.
Please see below for results from day one of the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro held at Makorori Beach, Gisborne today (Saturday 25th February).
Open Women's Division Round 1
Grace Spiers (Whmata), 10.8, 1, Jasmine Smith (Gis), 7.27, 2, Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis), 6.3, 3, Marguerite Vujich (Napier), 1.77, 4
Ella Williams (Whmata), 13, 1, Airini Mason (Gis), 9.53, 2, Alexis Poulter (Rag), 4.97, 3, Rachel von Zalinski (Auck), 2.83, 4
Thandi Tipene (Tara), 6.87, 1, Dayna Story (Gis), 6.4, 2, Jasmine Debeer (Gis), 4.2, 3, Robyn Turnbull (Mangawhai), 2.57, 4
Under 20 Men's Division Round of 26
Sid West (Gt Barrier), 8.57, 1, Jordan Hart (Tara), 4.63, 2, Zac Hunwick (Rag), 2.4, 3
Under 20 Men's Division Round of 24
Nat Hughes (Rag), 11.5, 1, Ella Williams (Whmata), 7.93, 2, Dillon Tarrant (Ham), 7.23, 3, Jordan Hart (Tara), 2.03, 4
Alex Dive (Mnt), 15, 1, Ben Poulter (Rag), 12.33, 2, Ben Wallis (Rag), 4.93, 3, Duncan Milne (Gis), 2.87, 4
Sid West (Gt Barrier), 8.83, 1, Josh Taylor (Tau), 8.5, 2, Mackenzie Christie (Tau), 7.4, 3, Wiremu Ormsby (Rag), 4.9, 4
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 14.03, 1, JC Susan (Mnt), 9.8, 2, Jules Craft (Gis), 7.77, 3, Russell Keenan (Waihi Bch), 4.1, 4
Under 20 Men's Division Quarterfinals
Ben Poulter (Rag), 12.5, 1, Paul Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 8.4, 2, Sean Kettle (Tara), 7.3, 3, Nat Hughes (Rag), 6.23, 4
Alex Dive (Mnt), 10.93, 1, Waretini Wano (Piha), 8.67, 2, Adam Grimson (Gis), 7.37, 3, Ella Williams (Whmata), 2.83, 4
Joe Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 11.67, 1, Tane Wallis (Piha), 11.2, 2, JC Susan (Mnt), 10.53, 3, Sid West (Gt Barrier), 5.5, 4
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 12.43, 1, Elliot Paerata Reid (Piha), 11.63, 2, Dune Kennings (Whmata), 11.5, 3, Josh Taylor (Tau), 9.43, 4