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Mount Maunganui surfer Tim O'Connor claimed his maiden victory at the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro completed at Gisborne today (Sunday 26th February).
The result has elevated O'Connor to number one on the New Zealand Pro Series with one event remaining.
Today started off with clean 1.5m waves and offshore winds at Makorori Beach. The excellent conditions lasted well into the day before the strong sea breeze took a grip in the afternoon turning the line up into a choppy mess.
"Its an amazing feeling, I have been trying so hard for so many years, I have made so many finals and always fell short placing second or third. I always knew I could get over the line though" O'Connor said post final.
O'Connor started the final well with a 7.0 point ride early on and finished with a 12.73 point heat total.
"I didn't hear anything out there but I knew I got the first one and that if I got another one I could win so that is what I focussed on" said O'Connor who put the win down to wave selection even though the waves were scattered all over the line up in the final.
Placing second today was Matt Hewitt (Mnt) who held the lead for the first half of the final. Hewitt finished with an 11.20 point heat total requiring a 6.74 for the win which he was disappointed about not achieving. "Not bad coming home and getting a result and getting some coin but second is definitely not like winning" said Hewitt of his runner up placing.
"It was pretty hard to hear out there, I didn't know where I was coming, I just scored myself on the waves I got and when I came in I found out the result" Hewitt said.
Gisborne local and ex-New Zealand Champion Damon Gunness surprised the field of young surfers to progress through to the final and place third. Gunness generally only competes in events that are held in Gisborne but today he showed that he can still out smart the top surfers in New Zealand as he blazed an impressive path through to the finals. Gunness finished with an 11.07 point heat total and only needed a 5.91 point ride to claim a remarkable win.
Raglan's Ben Poulter placed fourth in the final, the second of the day after earlier achieving the same result in the Under 20 Men's Division. Poulter surfed six heats on the final day and was still in with a chance of winning the final only needing a 7.61 point ride for the win.
Earlier in the day Gunness and Poulter eliminated Mike Banks (Rag) and Blair Stewart (Gis) in the first semifinal while O'Connor and Hewitt eliminated Billy Stairmand (Rag) and Johnny Hicks (Gis) in the second semifinal.
17 year old Ella Williams (Whangamata) claimed back-to-back wins in the Women's Division after her last win in Whangamata two weeks ago. Williams took the lead early in the final after a startling lefthander that scored 9.57 points out of a possible 10.
"I couldn't hear anything out there so I didn't know I got that score, I was just going off my surfing and performing to the best of my ability" Williams said.
Williams finished the final with a 15.77 point heat total leaving her opponents requiring a combination of scores to catch her. "It was a stacked final and I had to step my game up and try my hardest and it paid off, it was a good result."
The final was indeed stacked with fellow Whangamata surfer Grace Spiers placing second for her best result of the year.
Spiers finished with a 10.17 point heat total ahead of Airini Mason who is now residing in Wellington. Mason found it difficult to pick up any waves with decent form in the final scoring 9.27 out of 20 points ahead of Taranaki surfer Thandi Durham - Tipene in fourth.
One of the stand outs of the event, local boy Johnny Hicks smashed his way to victory in the Under 20 Men's Division. Hicks has recently returned from competing in Australia where he has secured some decent results in amongst the toughest field of surfers in the world.
"Yeah being over there and not doing too well is tough and then to come home and do good at this event, I love it. It is so good been at home competing" said Hicks.
Today he was too strong for the field surfing with superior speed and flow through some powerful turns and throwing some of the biggest air reverses of the weekend.
"I have been practicing them (air reverses) for a few years and today there was the perfect wind for them blowing into the lefts, so yeah, can't complain with the conditions.
Hicks posted a 15.03 point total heat score which bested travelling companion Alex Dive of Mount Maunganui who placed second. Despite being good buddies, no love was lost with the win over his mate. "Stoked to get a win over him, he usually beats me, so I am pretty stoked with that" said Hicks.
Dive was also a stand out at the event but fell just short of Hicks posting 13.70 points in the final. Third in the final was Tane Wallis (Piha) scoring 10.17 ahead of double finalist Ben Poulter who finished in fourth place.
Please see below for final results from the O'Neill Sequence Surf Shop Pro completed at Makorori Beach, Gisborne today (Sunday 26th February).
Open Men's Round 1
Mac Christie (Mnt), 11.9, 1, Ben Kennings (Whmata), 9.5, 2, Jules Craft (Gis), 4.93, 3, Joe Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 3.4, 4
Blair Stewart (Gis), 9.73, 1, Mike Banks (Rag), 8.93, 2, Zen Wallis (Piha), 8.87, 3, Deane Hishon (Rag), 5.93, 4
Buck Woods (Gis), 12.83, 1, Tane Wallis (Piha), 11.1, 2, Elliot Paerata Reid (Piha), 9.67, 3, Tyler Anderson (Tara), 9.67, 3
Ben Poulter (Rag), 10.33, 1, Damon Gunness (Gis), 10, 2, Dune Kennings (Whmata), 8.23, 3, Larry Fisher (Rag), 7.73, 4
Tim Thompson (Auck), 12.27, 1, Tim O'Connor (Mnt), 11.5, 2, Richard Christie (Mahia), 10.3, 3, Bachelor Tipene (Tara), 9.37, 4
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 14, 1, Luke Hughes (Rag), 12.1, 2, Paul Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 7.57, 3, Waretini Wano (Piha), 5.7, 4
Alex Dive (Mnt), 14.67, 1, Chris Malone (Gis), 13.93, 2, Nathan Welch (Gis), 8.87, 3, Sean Kettle (Tara), 6.83, 4
Billy Stairmand (Rag), 14.33, 1, Matt Hewitt (Mnt), 11.60, 2, Bobby Hansen (Gis), 8.07, 3, Adam Grimson (Gis), 7.87, 4
Open Men's Quarterfinals
Blair Stewart (Gis), 14.33, 1, Damon Gunness (Gis), 11.3, 2, Tane Wallis (Piha), 11.23, 3, Mac Christie (Mnt), 7.77, 4
Ben Poulter (Rag), 12.5, 1, Mike Banks (Rag), 11.6, 2, Ben Kennings (Whmata), 9.23, 3, Buck Woods (Gis), 5.7, 4
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 15.77, 1, Matt Hewitt (Mnt), 13.53, 2, Chris Malone (Gis), 12.93, 3, Tim Thompson (Auck), 9.93, 4
Billy Stairmand (Rag) , 15.33, 1, Tim O'Connor (Mnt), 11.23, 2, Alex Dive (Mnt), 11, 3, Luke Hughes (Rag), 8.67, 4
Open Men's Semifinals
Damon Gunness (Gis), 12.3, 1, Ben Poulter (Rag), 10.03, 2, Mike Banks (Rag) T/P, 6.23, 3, Blair Stewart (Gis), 3.17, 4
Tim O'Connor (Mnt), 13.2, 1, Matt Hewitt (Mnt), 12.2, 2, Billy Stairmand (Rag), 11.73, 3, Johnny Hicks (Gis), 9.67, 4
Open Men's Final
Tim O'Connor (Mnt), 12.73, 1, Matt Hewitt (Mnt), 11.20, 2, Damon Gunness (Gis), 11.07, 3, Ben Poulter (Rag), 9.87, 4
Under 20 Men's Semifinals
Alex Dive (Mnt), 12.03, 1, Ben Poulter (Rag), 11.13, 2, Waretini Wano (Piha), 8.83, 3, Paul Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 8.43, 4
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 10.33, 1, Tane Wallis (Piha), 10.03, 2, Joe Moretti (Mimiwhangata), 8.5, 3, Elliot Paerata Reid (Piha), 7.03, 4
Under 20 Men's Final
Johnny Hicks (Gis), 15.03, 1, Alex Dive (Mnt), 13.70, 2, Tane Wallis (Piha), 10.17, 3, Ben Poulter (Rag), 9.80, 4
Open Women's Semifinals
Airini Mason (Gis), 11.6, 1, Ella Williams (Whmata), 9.23, 2, Jasmine Smith (Gis), 7.9, 3
Thandi Tipene (Tara), 12.07, 1, Grace Spiers (Whmata), 10.9, 2, Dayna Story (Gis), 6.4
Open Women's Finals
Ella Williams (Whmata), 15.77, 1, Grace Spiers (Whmata), 10.60, 2, Airini Mason (Gis), 9.27, 3, Thandi Tipene (Tara), 7.20, 4