New Zealand's Sarah Mason steps up
Sarah Mason: The beginnings of a legend
‘Good things come in small packages’ and although Sarah Mason is a little over the ‘small’ comments her achievements for one so diminutive are reasonably astounding. I first met Sarah in Hawaii 2009, it was her first trip to the birthplace of surfing and although she had a significant amount of experience under her belt the transition to the power and size of Hawaii was a major step up.
Under the guidance of her sister Airini she surfed the legendary big waves of Sunset Beach and took on the other renowned breaks on surfing golden mile. One afternoon , when it was really big, I watched her get pounded at Pukekeha. The six to eight foot waves rolled relentlessly into the shallow beach, you could feel the force through the very stand you stood on.
After struggling for 20 minutes to get out she ended up back on the beach, a slightly quivering lip and nearly in tears, she sat on the beach obviously shaken. But to her credit after half an hour she gathered up her board and headed back out, it had not got any smaller in fact it had possible got bigger! But that is what sets Sarah apart from most 14 year old teenagers, a level of determination and courage often not found in surfers even twice her age.
This years ASP international female surf event in Taranaki was always going to be the stage from which the surfing world would see what Sarah Mason could do, she secured the wildcard to the world event (which in itself was significant) and the stage was set for something special.
Sarah Mason : photo Curl Magazine
Sarah approached each round in her quite unassuming way and although she seemed calm and centered she maintained she was ‘really nervous but I don’t have anything really to loose’ with the full support of her family and the local crowd (shared between her and local international surfer Paige Hareb) she went about doing what she does so well- surfing.
The Masons are no strangers to Taranaki, according to Rere, Sarah mother after visiting Taranaki ‘the draw of the blue sky, mountain and of course the surf‘ the family pulled up roots on the East coast moved in the mid1990s. They returned to Gisborne five years later, and then moved to Australia where they now live in Cabarita in New South Wales.
Adopted as a local after a small hick up in the first round, Sarah went on to do the unimaginable and knock out the world champion Steph Gilmore. The 15-year-old was well behind after Gilmore had posted an early ride of 8.33 and then backed that up with a 5.33 to give her an imposing lead.
Sarah, who does not seem to get easily managed to notch up a solid 6.93 with five minutes left.
Sarah Mason : photo Curl Magazine
As seconds ticked down and time almost up she produced a 7.10 to cause the biggest upset of the year (possibly the last few years). The crowd naturally went wild, it would be on par with your local teenager beating Tiger Woods at golf on your home course. She then went on to tip out Taranaki's national icon Paige Hareb in the quarterfinals.
Now in the semifinals against the Hawaiian super star Craissa Moore Sarah dream run came to an end, right up to the final hooter everyone held their breath for the fairy tale to continue but it was not to be. It is impossible to be disappointed at not getting to the final, sarah had taken control of women’s surfing for a week and everyone was exceptionally proud, mum, dad, family, Taranaki and the rest of New Zealand.
All in all an immense effort for one who celebrated her 15th birthday with a win in the New Zealand Open, then a day later, she won the Australasian Pro Junior title to earn the dream tour wildcard, then made it through to the semi finals against the worlds elite, making this simply one of the most remarkable weeks in New Zealand’s surfing history.