It couldn’t have been scripted better.
At first a relentless “localism” controversy stoked interest in the visit of the ASP Women’s Tour to New Zealand and then when the surfers finally took to the water they simply took over the story, conjuring up drama as only world class athletes can.
Teen sensation Sarah Mason set the scene by winning the NZ Women’s Open — on her 15th birthday no less — in the process earning a wildcard into the so-called Dream Tour’s kiwi leg.
The Mason clan became the focus as sisters Sarah and Airini when heat-to-head again in the ASP Australasian Junior Pro, with little sis again coming through.
But not satisfied with a token appearance in the ASP event Sarah, with Airini always nearby, progressed through to the semifinals, in the process knocking out three-time and reigning world champion Stephanie Gilmore, not to mention local favourite Paige Hareb.
By this time Mason’s story had captured the nation’s imagination and grumbles about overseas exposure of Surf Highway’s famed breaks had become a distant memory for most.
And then just as it was time to write Sarah’s final lines Hawaiian Carissa Moore took to centre stage.
In fantastic 2m offshore conditions at Fitzroy Beach, the 17-year-old who had been adopted by the local Waitara community, put and end to Mason’s run and then outclassed the impressive Sally Fitzgibbons in a savage display of progressive surfing in the final.
In a fitting finale, the quietly spoken youngster then handed the headline writers another gift when she announced she would be donating her entire winner’s cheque to the Waitara Bar Boardriders Club.
Throughout their visit to Taranaki the girls have demonstrated a generosity of spirit — PR posturing aside — that only served to contrast starkly with that of the naysayers and general “haters”.
Fearless in sometimes unforgiving seas, the girls were magnanimous in defeat, restrained in victory; and out of the water they were accessible, good natured, well spoken and role models that any parent would be happy to have their sons, let alone their daughters, look up to.
If only the same could be said for those who protested so loudly — especially those took to threats and vandalism to make their point. Shame.
Perhaps WBBC member Pounamu Skelton put it best:
Carissa is an example of true leadership or giving generously beyond oneself for the betterment of others. Truly an action of a leader!
When we let go of our own self importance the gifts come back ten fold. This week has been a wonderful example of many gifts that have come to our wide community far beyond expectation.
To everyone who brought a positive attitude to this event I mihi you on the success of the Taranaki Women’s Surf Festival.