A slight drop in swell overnight has done little to hamper over 170 of the world’s best junior surfers on day one of the Billabong Pro Junior Series at Maroochydore in Queensland, Australia. Clean 1m waves greeted contestants for the opening rounds of the prestigious $13,000 contest, running for the first time ever on the Sunshine Coast and attracting talent from as far a field as France, Spain, New Zealand and South Africa.
While conditions deteriorated on the afternoon low tide, local surfers began to find their mark in the seeded second round with Joe Schwarz (Maroochydore) and Jack Davis (Alex Headland) moving through to round three from the same heat.
Local knowledge was the key for 19-year-old Schwarz in the tricky conditions, scoring a 6.67 and a 4.83 by picking off the better formed right hand breaking waves and take the lead. Fellow coaster Davis held off a late charge by West Australian Courtney Brown (Kalbarri) to grab second position and progress with a heat score of 8.50 while Brown and Sam Baldock (Margaret River) were ousted from the event on 6.66 and 4.13 out of 20.00 respectively.
“I’d like to do well in this contest because I have been struggling in the first two competitions of the year,” said Schwarz. “I’m hoping for a little bit of a cyclone to whip up and generate some swell because it was super tough out there.” “The Sunshine Coast waves are a lot different to the other places we go to because it seems to stand up on the bank but not have a lot of push so it definitely helps to be local.”
Alex Headlands “Mr Consistency” Chris Friend set the days benchmark standard, blitzing through his first heat in fine style. The 16-year-old local topped the sheets with the highest single wave and highest combined two ride heat score of the day of 16.50. With his polished backside surfing on song, Friend locked in a 7.83 and an 8.67 to leave Wylie Moyes (Randwich) and James Woods (Coolangatta) needing combination scores to beat him.
“Obviously I’m feeling pretty good after a heat like that, but really I’m just happy to get that first one out of the way,” said Friend. “I just live up the beach at Alex Headland so I surf conditions like this every afternoon so I’m used to it. It’s the first Pro Junior ever at Maroochydore so I think it will give me some advantage over the other guys,” he said. “It’s good to see guys like Jeremy Flores come out, he is an international competitor so I would be stoked to come up against him.”
Friend will face off against fellow locals Shaun Stevic (Noosa) and Dale Lovelock (Warana) along with Blair McPherson (Nords Wharf) in the top seeded third round. Overall it was a lacklustre start for the local surfers after Hugh Powell (Caloundra), Cory Hansford (Maroochydore), Tyson Kozuszek (Mudjimba) and Shane Felsinger (Sunrise Beach) were eliminated from the event.
Coolum’s Sam Rhodes will surf round two this morning while top seeds Julian Wilson (Coolum), Mitchell Coleborn (Maroochydore), Blake Wilson (Alex Headlands), Thomas Stubbs (Maroochydore) and Dean Iezzi (Sunshine Beach) are still to begin their respective campaigns.
Current world tour surfer Flores (France) will be more accustomed to surfing perfect reef breaks and pocketing big money on this years elite level of competition, but is using this weeks hotly contested Pro Junior on the Sunshine Coast as a warm up for the WCT season opener in March.
The 18-year-old displayed the same form which won him the World Qualifying Series (WQS) in 2006, amassing 14.83 points out of a possible 20.00 to comprehensively defeat Hugo Prasser (Pt Lookout), Sam Heatley (NSW) and Ben Lowe (Lennox Head). A 7.83 opening ride set up a commanding lead for the fast surfing Frenchman, one that was never relinquished throughout the 20-minute exchange.
“I felt like it was fun out there, the waves are really small but I didn’t come here to be serious, I just came here to have a good time,” said Flores. “I haven’t done any competitions for a long time and I have always thought that the Australian Junior Series are the toughest junior competitions in the world, so it’s always good to compete and get into the contest rhythm.”
A clear standout on the first day of the six day competition, Flores will meet Dan Moore (Kincumber), Ty Watson (Currarong) and Jason Blissett (QLD) in round two today when the Billabong Pro Junior Series will recommence at either Maroochydore or Coolum. Event updates will be available on surfing oz website: www.surfingaustralia.com
The Billabong Pro Junior Series event on the Sunshine Coast is supported by ASP Australasia, Vodafone, Panasonic, UV Triplegard, Clearasil, Von Zipper, Kustom and Surfing Queensland.