Brandon Jackson produced a superb ride five minutes from the end of the final to clinch the Pro Junior boys’ title in the first event of the 2007 Billabong Junior Series for surfers 20 and younger held at St Michaels-on Sea on the KZN South coast of South Africa on Sunday.
The 20 year-old from Durban North had fought a see saw battle with relatively unknown Casey Grant in the wind affected but consistent head-high waves with the lead changing hands on several occasions before Jackson completed two aerials and bust his fins out the back of the wave to be awarded 9.25 points.
Grant, from nearby Scottburgh and rated a lowly 70th on last years Pro Junior ratings, had been in contention up until that point with 14.0 points for his best two rides to Jackson’s 15.5, but eventually succumbed by 17.6 to 14.5.
Earlier in the day Jackson had defeated namesake Brandon Roberts in a ding-dong quarter-final encounter and then prevailed over an in form Matthew Bromley (15) from Kommetjie in their semi-final match up, while Grant defeated Shawn Dennis and then Josch Schmeltzer on his way to his first ever series final, an achievement that won him the Zigzag ‘Blowing Up’ award of R1 000 and the innovative replica hand grenade trophy.
The Pro Junior girls’ final was a closely fought affair and the large crowd was treated to exceptional surfing under cloudless skies with all four girls recording one of their counting rides in last five minutes and the result only announced at the awards ceremony.
Tarryn Chudleigh maintained her phenomenal record on the Hibiscus Coast by winning her fourth title in the area in three years, scoring a narrow win over Nikita Robb with a vertical backhand attack on the crumbling waves. Sarah Baum, 13, continued her rise to the top of SA girls surfing by taking third place with Chantelle Rautenbach in fourth.
The U16 boys crown went to an inspired Nic Godfrey who overcame a late entry that saw him start in the first round to post 9.0 and 7.0 point rides in his first series final to grab the victory. Defending series champ Shaun Joubert stayed in contention throughout while local favourite Brett Palmboom, who overcame Bromley and highly touted Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga) to reach his first final, went on to claim third with Dale Staples taking fourth.
History was made in the U14 boys division when 13 year-old Heidi Palmboom became the first girl to reach the final four. Although series U14 champ Michael February clinched a comfortable victory to start the defense of his crown, and great performances from Dane Staples and Jarred Veldhuis saw her relegated to fourth place, it was Palmboom’s victory in her quarter-final heat and runner-up spot in the semis that will have the rest of the boys in the division wary of her talent in future events.
The U12 final was another nail-biting contest with all four competitors holding the lead during the 20 minutes. Eventually it was a super stoked Dylan Lightfoot who took home the R1 000 winner’s cheque and 1 000 points on the ratings despite Joshua Smit catching several great waves.
Local standout Slade Prestwich couldn’t maintain the form that had seen him win every heat on the way to the final and he slipped to third while defending event and series champ Max Armstrong earned the highest scoring ride of the heat – 6.25 out of 10 – but simply couldn’t find a quality second ride and ended fourth.
The bumpy wave faces and onshore wind provided ideal conditions for the Von Zipper Air Show and the high-class field of the country’s best ‘fly-boys’ treated the onlookers to a spectacular display of aerial manoeuvres. Casey Grant held the lead for the first 15 minutes but it was Brandon Roberts who pocketed the R1 800 winner-takes-all prize-purse for a nonchalant 360 degree spin in the air and controlled landing.
The Kustomised Awards for the best local performances went to Slade Prestwich and Caryn MacNicol who reached the semi-finals of the U12 boys division even though she was competing in girls’ Novice events three months back!
The next stop on the five-event R220 000 Billabong Junior Series will be in Durban (March 29-April 1) followed by Cape Town (May 17-20) and Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape (August 9-12) before wrapping up in the legendary surf Mecca of Jeffreys Bay (September 21-24) where the 11th annual series champions will be crowned.
For the full event results, check out: www.billabong.com/africa