While the bulk of the planet will still be in party mode as they cheer in the new year, a host of the world’s most talented under 21-year-old professional surfers will be toiling it out in the hope of claiming junior surfing’s most prestigious crown – the Billabong ASP World Junior Championship.

With the Von Zipper Trials rounding up today in one metre (three foot) and wind affected waves at North Narrabeen, Sydney, Australia, the draw for the main event has been finalised with Von Zipper Trials winner James Wood (AUS) plus second and third place getters Mitch Coleborn (AUS) and Luke Cheadle (AUS) now joining the already sizzling field.

Heading up the pack of junior world champion hopefuls is Foster’s ASP World Tour number 20 and 2003 Billabong ASP World Junior Championships winner Adriano de Souza (BRA) who will take on Dusty Payne (HAW) and Cheadle in heat eight of the opening round. The exciting youngster, who excels in beach break conditions, loves surfing at Narrabeen because it is so similar to his hometown of Guaruja in Brazil.

“I love coming here," said de Souza. “The waves are so much fun, so much like what I surf every day at home. And the place is really nice and everything about it is great."

While de Souza regularly mixes with the big boys on the Foster’s ASP World Tour, he indicated that competing in the Billabong ASP World Juniors was very important for his career aspirations as in years to come many of the competitors here will be alongside him on top of the surfing pile.

“It’s really important for me that I compete with my generation," said de Souza who is still only 20 years of age. “These boys who are competing here today will be up there with us on the Foster’s ASP World Tour in years to come so it is good to compete against them now and get to know how they surf. The guys here today surf a bit different to the guys on tour so I’m checking the talent that is coming through… seeing what they are doing."

De Souza will also use the event as a springboard for his 2007 top tour campaign, hoping that if he were to secure a win here he will gain the confidence required to take it to the sports biggest names when the Foster’s ASP World Tour resumes in March.

“It would be great to start the year with a win as it will give me confidence going into the new season," said de Souza. “Plus by competing here I stay sharp and focussed and I learn something new every time I go out there." Speaking on his chances of claiming win number two here this week…“I’m confident because I know this beach," said de Souza. “And having won here before helps. I like Narrabeen a lot. Hopefully I can get another good result!"

After surfing a hotly contested final, Australian rising star Wood claimed victory in the Von Zipper Trials ahead of fellow countrymen Coleborn, Cheadle and Nick Riley. After grabbing a solid ride early which scored well into the 9.0 range he pretty much had the affair in the bag, thus cementing himself a place in the main event draw in the process.

“I was lucky and caught that good wave early," said Wood. “It wrapped around and I was able to get some good turns in and grab a good score. I’m really happy to make it through to the main event." It is the second time Wood has claimed a Von Zipper Trials win and along with Coleborn and Cheadle he will have to face off with some of the Billabong ASP World Junior Championship’s top seeds.

“I’m feeling confident going up against them [the top seeds]," said Wood. “I have a new board that keeps going better for me every time I ride it so… yeah… bring on the main event." With a strong wind blowing it is hoped that the swell will increase over night just in time for round one to kick off tomorrow morning, New Years Day 2007.

The Billabong ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Junior Championship is the most sought after junior surfing accolade on the planet and is recognised globally as the future of surfing. Seen as a stepping-stone to elite world tour, the event, now in its eighth year was originally held in Hawaii before relocating to Australia. Finding a home at the historically esteemed North Narrabeen beach in Sydney, it now run’s during the first week of January each year.

The prestigious event attracts qualifiers from eight world regions including Australasia, North America, South America, Hawaii, Asia, South Africa, Europe and a specially sanctioned ASP International region. Each of the representatives has won through grueling regional circuits to earn their place among the top 45 junior men and 18 junior women in the world, a feat in itself.

The $US 62,000 ($AUD 80,000) prize purse qualifies the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships as the richest junior surfing event in the history of surfing.

The eventual victors will stand alongside the 2006 elite men’s world tour winner Kelly Slater and the eventual women’s world champ at the official ASP ceremony in March 2007, crowned as the worlds only true professional junior surfing champions. They will also join an esteemed list of former champions including Three Time World Champion Andy Irons (Haw) and Australian super-star Joel Parkinson.

Complimenting the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships will be Sonic Bloom, a music festival that will feature some of Australia’s top music talent.

With only a messy one metre swell pushing across the famous location of North Narrabeen Beach in Sydney, Australia, organisers of the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships opted to call the event off yesterday. After waiting for tide and wind conditions to improve throughout the morning Contest Director Luke Egan eventually decided that the waves were not suitable to hold competition and will make the next call today with the hope of kicking off proceedings.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the weather, the forecast for the waiting period looks promising with a swell increase predicted over the next few days. Local forecasters are predicting that a three foot swell will hit the area within the next 24 hours and will be coming in from an Easterly direction, which is well suited to the world class Narrabeen arena.

The competition format of both the men’s and women’s is identical to that of ASP’s elite surfing tours – the Foster’s ASP World Tour and the ASP Women’s World Tour – in that both will begin with three-man first round heats (16 men’s heats and eight women’s) with heat winners going through to round three and second and third going to round two.

The field will then be whittled down via man-on-man heats with instant elimination for those in second.

The event waiting period extends until January 8 but with four days needed to complete proceedings, organisers will wait for only the best waves on offer before sending out the troops. Contest Director Luke Egan will assess conditions at first light and will make a call regarding starting the event soon after.

Heat Draw

Heat 1: Heitor Pereira (BRA); Casey Brown (HAW); Julian Wilson (AUS)

Heat 2: Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF); Sterling Spencer (USA); Vincent Duvignac (FRA)

Heat 3: Dion Atkinson (AUS); Romain Cloitre (FRA); Heath Joske (AUS)

Heat 4: TJ Barron (HAW); Nobuyuki Osawa (JAP); Reubyn Ash (GBR)

Heat 5: Hank Gaskell (HAW); Shota Nakamura (JPN); Halley Batista (BRA)

Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS); Keegan Nel (ZAF); Bernardo Martins (BRA)

Heat 7: Ola Eleogram (HAW); Torrey Meister (HAW); Tamarao McComb (PYF)

Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA); Dusty Payne (HAW); Luke Cheadle (AUS)

Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF); Marc Lacomare (FRA); James Wood (AUS)

Heat 10: Sam Page (AUS); Eric Geiselman (USA); Mitch Coleborn (AUS)

Heat 11: Dylan Graves (PRI); Kento Takahashi (JPN); Matias Mulanovich (PER)

Heat 12: Mason Ho (HAW); Shu Hagiwara (JPN); Angelo Lozano (MEX)

Heat 13: Hideyoshi Tanaka (JAP); Pierre-Valentin Laborde (FRA)

Heat 14: Nick Rozsa (USA); Granger Larsen (HAW); Rory Beach (ZAF)

Heat 15: Gavin Gillette (HAW); Thiago Camarao (BRA); Wade Goodall (AUS)

Heat 16: Jean Sebastien Estienne (FRA); Brandon Jackson (ZAF); Adrien Toyon (REU)

www.billabongpro.com

www.surfingaustralia.com