Ara mai he toa kura – a rising star
It’s been a clean sweep for 11-year-old Mihiroa Pauling (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Waewae, Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, Ngāti Mutunga) this summer. Not only did she achieve her first national title at the New Zealand Junior Surf Life Saving Championships (Oceans’ 16) taking out the U12 Women’s Beach Flags event, but she also won gold for Beach Flags at the South Island and Canterbury competitions. As well as blitzing the flags, at the recent Canterbury champs she also won gold in the mixed relay, and silver for her beach sprint.
Mihiroa began surf life saving at the age of six when parents Craig Pauling (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki) and Dottie (Janyne) Morrison (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāti Waewae) signed her up at the Waimairi Surf Life Saving Club with her cousin Te Kaio Cranwell (Ngāi Tahu – nō Wairewa). After a challenging start, she won her first Canterbury title two years later. “It took her a while to get the hang of it,” says dad Craig, “but something really clicked for her in 2013, and she hasn’t looked back. It’s great that she has found something she can excel at.”
Mihiroa enjoys the challenge of competing and participating in surf carnivals and championships, and contributing to her club’s success.
“I really like it when our club does well,” she says. “I’m always the smallest in the competitions, but I think that is a strength most of the time, and I have proven that I can achieve for me and our club.”
The Oceans’16 was a huge success for the Waimairi club, with Mihiroa’s gold being complemented by double gold for her teammate Taylor Chamberlain – the first individual national titles across any age group in more than 15 years.