International surfers Brandon Jackson (Durban, South Africa) and Kai Barger (Maui, Hawaii - pictured below), raised the high performance bar to advance into round four at the Hurley Burleigh Pro Junior yesterday. With the swell increasing slightly overnight, contest organisers opted to proceed with the $20,000 ASP 7-Star Junior Mens Event, sending out round three heats at Burleigh Heads, Australia.

Seeded surfers didn’t disappoint, particularly Jackson and Barger, who fired off some lighting fast floaters and vertical lip bashes to eliminate title contender and Nambucca Heads (NSW) ripper Heath Joske, who was ranked No.3 on the ASP Australasia Junior Series ratings coming into the event.

19-year-old Jackson picked up from where he left off on Wednesday, controlling the stacked heat from beginning to end. Opening with a solid 4.67 ride in the first minute of the heat, the lanky natural footer swiftly grabbed an even better 6.5 to leave his foe’s on the back foot. Barger was also in good touch, blasting a barrage of backhand blasts in the most critical sections, to advance alongside Jackson into the fourth round.

More suited to riding big waves in his Hawaiian motherland, the powerful goofy footer adapted well to Burleigh’s 2-3ft wind-affected waves, tallying a decent combined heat total of 9.7. “It was a bit sketchy out there," he said. “Conditions were pretty small and fast over the sand bar. I was lucky to get a few open faces and nail a few turns."

17-year-old Barger is already a three-times national champion in America and is mindful of the opportunity to compete at Burleigh Heads, regarded as the birthplace of professional surfing. “It definitely seems like it favours the forehand surfers," explained Barger. "Just being on your backside on such a small wave you can kind of through it up. You can definitely get a good wave out there, you just have to pick the right ones."

The rising junior star will return home at the completion of the event in a stronger position to pursue his World Championship Tour (WCT) aspirations. “There’s so many talented guys competing in the junior series in Australia," added Barger. “Back home there’s only a handful that are at that top level. It seems like every second junior in Australia is raising the bar. I will return home bigger and better that’s for sure!"

While Jackson and Barger inflicted the day’s biggest upset, it was Coolangatta young gun Blake Ainsworth who scored vocal hoots of approval from the large crowd that had gathered for the event. Ainsworth (12.5pts), 18, reveled in the small conditions defeating Cronulla aerial specialist Alex Chacon (8.96pts), and fellow Gold Coast surfers Michael Levitt (Palm Beach, 5.9pts) and Kane Powell (Currumbin, 4.17pts), to easily advance through to round four.

“I’m stoked to go well in a local event," explained Ainsworth. “It’s my first year in the junior series and I’m looking to get off to a good start here." The levelheaded Gold Coaster isn’t getting ahead of himself though, adding, “All the older guys like Julian (Julian Wilson) are pulling off some crazy moves. I look forward to getting to their level sometime soon.

Coolum surfing prodigy Julian Wilson, who top scored on the opening two days of competition, was lucky to advance through to the fourth round, scrapping in behind North Stradbroke Island’s Lincoln Taylor in their hotly contested heat. “It was really tricky out there," he said. “Wave selection goes out the window when the conditions are like that. I was kind of sweating with a minute to go, Blake (Wilson) put the pressure on me and had me cornered. Luckily enough I pulled one out with a minute to go."

Impressive heat winners on day three of competition included Chris Bennetts (Main Beach, Qld), Ellis Ericson (Byron Bay), Brett Levingston (Palm Beach), Laurie Towner (Angourie, NSW), Tim Taplin (East Lynne) and Lincoln Taylor (Nth Stradbroke Island).

Burleigh Heads is expected to be the location for today’s round four heats, with competition to commence at 8am. The Hurley Burleigh Pro Junior is proudly supported by Boost Mobile, Sony Ericsson, Electric Visual, Waves Magazine, ASP Australasia and Surfing Queensland.

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