Stella Smith makes history in China
29th November 2018 The Gisborne Herald
THE standard teenager Stella Smith sets for herself was reinforced by her reaction to making history at the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in China yesterday.
Smith, 16, placed third in the final of the open women’s stand-up paddleboard surfing at Riyue Bay at Hainan Island, southern China.
Defending champion Shakira Westdorp, of Australia, won the final, making it a unprecedented three world titles on the trot.
Smith became the first Kiwi to win a SUP surfing medal at the worlds but was left feeling disappointed it was not a different colour.
“I was stoked to make the final but was still gutted with my result and thought I could have done better” said Smith, who was seventh at the 2017 worlds.
“The final itself was a lot slower than the other heats and I didn’t capitalise on the few sets when they came.”
Smith was sitting second late in the grand final only for Spaniard Iballa Ruano Moreno to leapfrog her with her eighth wave — a 6.33 ride that advanced her to 12.03 out of a possible 20 for her two best scores.
Smith totalled 10.50, scoring 5.37 with her first wave and backing it up with a 5.13 near the end of the final.
They were, however, in chasing mode once Westdorp moved in front, thanks to a series of waves including 7.37 and 7.0 scores for a 14.37 total.
It was no surprise. Westdorp posted eight of the top nine individual wave scores from the women over the entire event — the best of those 8.0 — with Smith’s 6.83 interrupting her dominance.
Westdorp also took the hard route to the title, surprisingly dropping into the repechage rounds after finishing third in her round 2 heat.
Japan’s Yuuka Horikoshi was fourth in the final with 8.15.
Earlier, Horikoshi (13.0) and Smith (10.6) advanced directly to the grand final with a 1-2 finish in their main event round 4 heat.
Despite feeling she should have done better, Smith was positive about the experience.
“To get the opportunity to surf against the best again was such a blessing and I’m so lucky.
“The Kiwi team this year are very strong and I’m excited to watch the racers compete,” said Smith, one of two Gisborne surfers in the team.
Gisborne’s Sean Hovell was 11th-equal in the men’s surfing.
New Zealand moved into the racing disciplines of the champs today in fourth place overall out of 26 countries.
The Kiwi team were third at last year’s world champs.