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Young surfers ready to catch El Salvador waves at world champs

Four Taranaki teenagers are hoping to carve up the opposition at the world junior surf champs in El Salvador this month.

Part of a 12-strong New Zealand team, the so-called Taranaki Grom Squad say they are “stoked” to be taking on the world’s best.

The ISA World Junior Surfing Championships are being held for the first time since 2019.

Natasha Gouldsbury competed that year and the 17-year-old is back for more.

“It’s pretty sick to go with three of my mates this time. I went in 2019 with Tommy Butland and it was just the two of us from here, so now to go with three other people from Taranaki is just pretty sick cause we’re all friends who surf together.”

Her mates – and joining her on the world stage – are Kalani Louis, Spencer Rowson and Skylar McFetridge.

It will be 15-year-old Rowson’s first time out of the country.

“I’m pretty excited but pretty nervous too though.”

The quartet off to El Salvador from left: Natasha Gouldsbury, Skylar McFetridge, Kalani Louis and Spencer Rowson.
Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

McFetridge is competing in the Under-16 division and she is not shy on her aims.

“Hopefully I’ll win it or get in the finals. That’s my goal or to do my best in all the heats I do.”

She was pretty sure who to thank too if she did win – their families.

“It’s amazing how they put all their time and effort into us and coach us to the best we can be and all the comps that we do and to support us and the time they take off work because they don’t get paid for this.”

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Louis’ dad, Mark, said the break since the last competition had allowed the Taranaki Grom Squad to be formed.

“It came about from needing a focus so the kids were pulling together and putting more effort into what they’re doing rather than just going surfing, working on technique, working on physical fitness.”

He said fellow dads Kane Rowson and Paul McFetridge put in the hard yards with the youngsters.

“Training a few days a week like physical training and going over video footage and what not and then actually physically surfing. I don’t know how many hours they surf, it’s ridiculous, a lot of hours surfing.”

Mark Louis of Taranaki - father of Kalani Louis, who is representing NZ at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in El Salvador.

Mark Louis is impressed with the teenagers’ dedication to their sport.
Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mark Louis, who will travel with Kalani to El Salvador, said hearing the 17-year-old had been chosen to compete in the Under-18 boys division was mind-blowing.

“What an opportunity, it’s like your kid making the All Blacks I guess, an early age grade All Black team or something like that. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

About 370 competitors from more than 40 nations are set to compete at the 18th edition of the Junior Worlds in Under-18 and Under-16 boys’ and girls’ divisions.

The Taranaki Grom Squad teens have raised $10,000 each to get to El Salvador.

Kalani Louis hoped their efforts would inspire the next generation of micro groms.

“Definitely when I was younger some of the guys like Tom Butland I definitely looked up to cause I saw them going away to heaps of comps and it made me want to do it as well.

“So, hopefully since four of us are going a couple of boys and girls will look and see us and aspire to do what we’re doing as well.”

The ISA World Junior Surfing Championships will be held from 27 May to 5 June.

The full 2022 New Zealand junior surfing team

Under 18 Boys’ Division

Finn Vette (Gisborne)

Kalani Louis (Taranaki)

Kora Cooper (Raglan)

Non-travelling reserve: Tyler Perry (Kaikōura)

Under 18 Girls’ Division

Ava Henderson (Christchurch)

Liv Haysom (Piha)

Natasha Gouldsbury (Taranaki)

Non-travelling reserve: Anna Brock (Mount Maunganui)

Under 16 Boys’ Division

Jack Tyro (Christchurch)

Spencer Rowson (Taranaki)

Tao Mouldey (Mount Maunganui)

Non-travelling reserve: Rakiatea Tau (Christchurch)

Under 16 Girls’ Division

Leia Millar (Piha)

Pia Rogers (Whangamata)

Skylar McFetridge (Taranaki)

Non-travelling reserve: Sophia Brock (Mount Maunganui)

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