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WITH the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on one sleeve and the New Zealand flag on the other, Gisborne-Mahia surfer Ricardo Christie surged to victory in his opening heat of the Corona Bali Protected Pro in Bali yesterday.

From the moment he produced an aerial 360 early in the heat for a 5.33 score, Christie took control against Australian Wade Carmichael and Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

The Bali Pro is the third contest on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour.

This year features a new format.

It starts with a three-man seeding round, with the top two from each heat advancing to the round of 32.

The third placegetters drop into an elimination round of four three-man heats. The losers in each heat are knocked out.

So top two in the seeding round is the goal for competitors. Christie achieved that at Bells Beach last month but was eliminated in the round of 32.

He is chasing higher honours at Bali and gave himself every chance with yesterday’s heat win.

Small and inconsisent waves made tactics all-important. Christie got a good score early and was the beneficiary of a couple of decent waves that came through.

He followed up his 5.33 with a hard-charging 6.60, concentrating on completing the ride rather than anything particularly spectacular.

With a two-wave total of 11.93, Christie had his opponents chasing and it became a duel between them for second.

Carmichael got there with 8.63 while CT rookie Moniz could manage only 5.10 in the lucky-dip conditions.

WSL commentators continued to be impressed by Christie.

They said it was clear he had put a lot of work into his build-up, was surfing smarter and had all the attributes for a top-10 finish this year.

Christie had extra inspiration in the form of the Tino Rangatiratanga and New Zealand flags on his rash shirt.

He was given special permission by WSL to wear both flags and explained to commentators how they represented his Maori and New Zealand roots, and he was proud of both.

“I’m super grateful that I can kind of bring everyone together,” he said.

“Hopefully I can inspire everyone at home to believe in yourself and live your dreams.”

The performance of the round came from Brazilian Filepe Toledo, whose 16.17 total featured a massive 360 that earned him a 9.0 from the judges.

GETTING AERIAL: Ricardo Christie grabs the rail of his board as he performs an aerial 360 at the Bali Pro in Keramas, Indonesia, yesterday. He scored 5.33 for this ride and went on to win his heat and advance to the round of 32 in the third contest of the Championship Tour. Christie has the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on his right shoulder and the New Zealand flag on the other, depicting his combined heritage. Picture by Cait Miers/WSL