Young Māori finds success at the Eastern Region surf lifesaving championships in Tūranganui (Gisborne), with Jack Keepa (Maniapoto) taking out the U16 swim event.
“Feels amazing I know there are some tough boys they're all so quick and I just had to stay with them and hope for the waves on the way home,” says Keepa.
Describing the experience, Keepa says, "I just used my skills going under the waves on the way out, coming in I was just hoping for a wave and just looking trying to hold them to the beach which is really important.”
The surf is pumping at Midway Beach in Tūranganui and over 1000 spectators and supports have turned out for the annual event.
Visiting competitor Kiahi Horan of Tūhoe says, “There aren't a lot of Māori in the sport which is a shame but I think we'd do really well if we all get it together and come on down and give it a go.”
Local competitor Ava Smith of Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata says, “I've just been doing it since I was little because we live by the ocean and so we've just been doing it since we were little groms and it's really fun having with mates and meeting new people.”
Ava Smith is 15 years old and isn't deterred by the size of the swell, rather she says she enjoys competing in these conditions.
“Just the waves it's more fun, I can't go in the flat because it's so hard you have to be really fit, so the eaves are definitely the best,” says Ava Smith.
Jack Keepa says surf lifesaving is a natural and positive path for young Māori.
“It's good to see I reckon there's more and more Māori coming into the sport and it's really good for it, us as Māori we love the ocean and anything in the water so it'll be good,” says Keepa.
At 14 years old, Keepa has a bright future in the sport and wants to take it as far as he can.
“Hopefully do some racing in Australia, mix it with the big boys and just keep striving,” says Keepa.
The regional representative competition takes place tomorrow in Tūranganui.