ALANA BLANCHARD AND OWEN WRIGHT WIN INTERNATIONAL RIP CURL GROMSEARCH TITLES AT BELLS
A mixed bag of 'grommets', from all corners of the globe, enjoyed Easter at Bells Beach this year, onsite at the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival to compete the International Finals of the global Rip Curl GromSearch series.
After spending the first few days on the beach watching the world's best male surfers compete the Rip Curl Pro World Tour event, the GromSearch boys and girls – all aged 16 years and under – finally got their chance to take centre stage and impress the Easter crowds.
Held on Easter Sunday, the International GromSearch Final was the climax of several regional series' held around the world. Each region's champions were flown to Bells last week to represent their countries in efforts to capture International GromSearch glory.
Competitors heralded from Australia, Indonesia, Europe, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA. Both the boys and girls divisions held semi-final rounds before the four-surfer final.
The boy's GromSearch division featured a host of great surfers, but in the end the Final was a Southern Hemisphere showdown.
Although Stuart Kennedy (Aus) jagged an early lead in the final with a 9-point ride, exciting Australian surfer Owen Wright was the standout, eventually running away with the title. The Culburra kid posted a 9.5 and an 8.0 on his way to a winning 17.50 two-wave combined score. The goofy footer's score positioned him ahead of Kennedy (14.0 points), Made Raditya (Indonesia, 11.10) and Tim O'Connor (NZ, 9.20).
"I'm stoked to win the International Final," said Wright. "It's cool to surf against all of the other competitors, from everywhere else in the world."
"We've had the chance to surf some good waves and I haven't surfed Bells that many times, so it was good to surf it during the Rip Curl Pro," Wright added.
Although Australian surfers dominated the boy's division, their female counterparts struggled against the international contingent in their division.
After the preliminary heats were held, the Final draw listed no Australians. Alana Blanchard (Haw), Alizee Arnaud (Fra), Paige Hareb (NZ) and 2005 International GromSearch champion Nikita Robb (South Africa) were the four surfers through and ready to challenge for the title.
Blanchard surfed well all morning and managed to overcome an in-form Arnaud to claim victory. Arnaud, who held the lead for most of the final, was shut pushed down to second after Blanchard exploded on one of the best-shaped waves the final. Linking up smooth top-to-bottom combos, Blanchard crushed the unsuspecting Bells righthander to snag a near-perfect 9.95 wave score and the Rip Curl International GromSearch title.
"It has been fun being here," said Blanchard. "There were some fun waves to get and I am really happy with my result. I didn't know it was going to be so cold, but we did get some good waves, so that was good."
"It's great having the final here, because we get to watch the pro's, see what they do and try it. I've had a good time," Alana added.
Blanchard and Wright were able to kick back after their respective victories and tune into the rest of the historic 2006 Rip Curl Pro. Go to www.ripcurl.com to get all the info on the 2006 GromSearch season, as well as entry forms.