Isla Huppatz And Fletcher Kelleher Take Out The Blue Ribbon Divisions In The Rip Curl GromSearch National Final

Published on 07/03/2023

Seventy-Two of the finest junior surfers from around the country descended on URBNSURF Melbourne to compete for the prestigious title of GromSearch National Champion. Finalists from the recently completed Australian Rip Curl GromSearch series were joined by wildcards from the #GromSearchOnline event to enjoy a day of perfect waves in the 2-hectare lagoon.

The sun was shining and the waves were of course pumping at URBNSURF with all the groms putting on their best performances. Early in the day the competitors were eager to go big as they were informed that the winners of the Under 16 Boys and Girls would receive a spot in the 2023 Rip Curl Gromsearch International Final to be held at Bells Beach later in the year.

The groms were then surprised by the appearance of previous International Gromsearch winner and Olympic bronze medalist, Owen Wright! During an expression session the kids were able to go wave for wave with Wright as he showed them how it was done. This clearly pumped up the competitors as they headed into the finals with froth levels going through the roof.

Isla Huppatz (Bilinga, QLD) put together a fantastic performance in the opening semifinals of the Under 16 Girls. Early in the round Huppatz was dominant on both the left and right waves. Displaying a fast, vertical style on her backhand hit, Huppatz was able to come out of her turns with the same momentum which created a point of difference.

However, early in the final Huppatz faltered as she fell on her first two waves. She managed to claw her way back into contention on her third ride with a 7.43 but this was still short of Milla Brown’s (Newport, NSW) 8.53 ride. Taking advantage of the opportunity with a series of strong maneuvers, Brown backed up her lead with a 7.50 on the right-hand wave, giving her a 16.03 combined total and a commanding lead. However, on her final wave Huppatz showed her ability to remain calm under pressure and scored a 9.17 (out of a possible 10) which saw her shoot to the lead by 0.57 points as she posted a total of 16.60 to take out the championship.

“I was so nervous only having two 2-point rides on the left, but then I ended up getting a 7-point ride,” Huppatz stated.

“However, when I got a big score on the right I was thrilled as I really wanted to make it into the International Final at Bells Beach since it is my old hometown,” she said.

Finishing in second place on her combined score of 16.03 points was Milla Brown with Ruby Berry (Augusta, WA), Ava Holland (Dromana, VIC), Natalie Fensom (Newcastle, NSW) and Ava Arghyros (Kingscliff, NSW) placing third to sixth respectively.

Also finding success was Owen Wright’s Under 16 boys #GromSearchOnline wildcard Fletcher Kelleher (Bogangar, NSW). Kelleher found momentum in the final straight away as he reeled off a combination of sharp backhand hits that exhibited a strong, flawless technique and earned him a 9.0 point ride. Maverick Wilson (Dunsborough, WA) and Mitchell Peterson (Noosa, QLD) were amped up from this ride and scored 8 point rides of their own in an attempt to overtake Kelleher.

Going into the final three waves on the right hander Kelleher was sitting in pole position with the other competitors playing catch-up after their first few rides. Mitchell Peterson backed up his previous score with a 7.73 point ride to momentarily put him first before Kelleher put together a strong carve into an array of high hits to earn himself a 7.87 and the Under 16 Rip Curl Gromsearch National Final title.

“The win felt pretty awesome as I didn’t really expect anything going into the event,” Fletcher Kelleher said.

“I’m psyched to compete against other people from around the world that also won their Gromsearch National finals,” he continued.

Coming in second place was Mitchell Peterson with Maverick Wilson, Jimmi Hill (Anna Bay, NSW), Sol Gruendling (Freshwater, NSW) and Kash Brown (Cronulla, NSW) placing in third to sixth respectively.

Other division champions included Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW) and Eliza Richardson (Sunshine Beach, QLD) in the 14 & Under Divisions, and Lucas Deffenti (Gold Coast, QLD) and Talia Tebb (Avoca, NSW) in the 12 & Under Divisions.

Finals Results:

U16 Girls
1st – Isla Huppatz (Bilinga, QLD), 16.60
2nd – Milla Brown (Newport, NSW), 16.03
3rd – Ruby Berry (Augusta, WA), 15.24
4th – Ava Holland (Dromana, VIC), 14.67

U16 Boys
1st – Fletcher Kelleher (Bogangar, NSW), 16.73
2nd – Mitchell Peterson (Noosa, QLD), 15.97
3rd – Maverick Wilson (Dunsborough, WA), 15.17
4th – Jimmi Hill (Anna Bay, NSW), 14.46

U14 Girls
1st – Eliza Richardson (Sunshine Beach, QLD), 16.47
2nd – Meika Locke (Palm Beach, NSW), 16.00
3rd – Lucy Darragh (Kiama, NSW), 15.36
4th – Lani Cairncross (Kiama Downs, NSW), 14.60

U14 Boys
1st – Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW), 16.27
2nd – Lachlan Arghyros (Kingscliff, NSW), 14.94
3rd – Jesse Ferguson (Sunshine Beach, QLD), 14.77
4th – Ben Zanatta Creagh (Dee Why, NSW), 14.73

U12 Girls
1st – Talia Tebb (Avoca, NSW) 15.83
2nd – Rose Holland (Dromana, VIC), 14.00
3rd – Scarlett Rennie (Phillip Island, VIC), 13.33
4th – Navah Holmes (Tugun, QLD), 11.57

U12 Boys
1st – Lucas Deffenti (Gold Coast, QLD), 16.50
2nd – Kade Kelly (Newcastle, NSW), 15.23
3rd – Kai Coleman (Mount Duneed, VIC), 14.00
4th – Kaoni Aguiar (Avalon, NSW), 12.86

Full scores and results can be accessed via

The Rip Curl Gromsearch National Final is supported by Surfing Victoria.

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