By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
A MASSIVE gamble by Sawtell surfer Kira Townsend has paid huge dividends now that she has qualified for a trip to Brazil with a spot at the World Junior Surfing Championships in May.
In the final of the Quiksilver Australian Grommet Titles last weekend, Townsend surfed apart from her three opponents on a separate sand bank to post a convincing win in the final of the under-18 girls' division ahead of Mullaway's Angela Keighran.
"Before the titles started, I surfed that corner earlier on and the conditions on the last day were smaller than expected," the 17 year-old said. "When I had surfed it earlier on I caught some good waves.
"All the others were over at the main beach so I thought I'd go to the corner and see how I'd go."
She did more than all right and has now achieved the rare distinction of winning back-to-back titles after winning last year's under-16 title.
What makes Townsend's win last weekend even more amazing is that with only 30 seconds to go in her semi-final she was placed third and in real danger of not even progressing through to the final.
"They were announcing all the scores through all the heats and finals and I heard that I was coming third at the time and I was actually freaking out a little," she admitted.
The swell that was on offer at Tasmania's Roaring Beach on the day of the finals was limited but Townsend was forced to take whatever wave that was on offer in the dying moments.
"The finals were really small," she said. "In the semis every wave that I stood up in I fell off or I couldn't get into the inside and do anything on them.
"I just got the last wave in the end and it was only about two foot, I think I needed a three or something to get through and I got a four."
As the national champion, Townsend can now look forward to a latin experience in Brazil where she will be aiming to add a world junior title to her already impressive surfing resume.
"I'm really excited about Brazil but a bit nervous at the same time," she said.
Townsend and her family will have to pay for the South American trip themselves and she's hoping that her performances over the past two years at a national level will help attract more sponsors to help fund the adventure.
The Christian Community School student will have plenty of time to prepare for the world championships now her study commitments for the year are over.
"I hope I can get out there nearly every day," Townsend enthused.
"Hopefully there's a bit of a swell up every day over summer."