A truly international flavor permeated Round 1 of the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, which got underway at Sydney’s North Narrabeen beach, today.
Of the sixteen surfers advancing directly into Round 3, eight world regions were represented including Australia, Brazil, USA, Hawaii, South Africa, Europe, Japan and the Caribbean.
Despite the international mix of heat winners, it was former World Junior Champion Pablo Paulino (BRA) who had the upper hand with the highest individual wave score of the day, a 9.70 (out of a possible ten).
While others chose to ‘surf safe’ in the bumpy conditions, Paulino pushed the boundaries with new school manoeuvres that earned him a definitive heat win and a spot in Round 3.
“I’m so very happy to win this heat,” Paulino said after his win. “It is a dream for me to be back here and I hope to win my second ASP World Junior Title this year.
Paulino posted a 17.00 (out of a possible 20.00) total heat score, leaving his competitors in a combination situation (needing a combination of two scores to catch him). Jaytr Berasaluce (EUK) and Yan Guimaraes (BRA) finished in second and third places respectively.
“I’ve been training really hard all year and surfing lots of WQS events which has given me a lot of confidence,” Paulino continued. “I enjoy the new school style of surfing and will be looking to do more aerial manoeuvres in the upcoming rounds.”
The Australians revealed the might behind their 2007 Billabong World Junior campaign, with five of their seven surfers, advancing in first place.
Current ASP Australasia rated No. 2 Julian Wilson (AUS) produced the type of surfing it will take to win at Narrabeen; earning the second highest two wave heat score of the event so far, a 16.17 (out of a possible 20.00) which included an excellent 8.67 (out of 10.00) ride.
“You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to get through heats, not go out there and show everyone on the beach how good you can surf,” Wilson explained. “All the Aussies are super hungry for a win, the other guys have been taking it off us for the last couple of years so we’re ready to change that this year.”
Top Australian junior WQS surfer Matt Wilkinson secured one of the top scoring heats of the event, his 14.66 point total enough to see him take the next best win for Australia behind Wilson.
Von Zipper Wildcard trial winner Owen Wright (AUS) proved he deserved a spot in the main event, taking down Nick Rosza (USA) and former ASP World Junior Champion Adriano De Souza (BRA), by choosing to play it safe in the bumpy conditions.
“You sort of had to be critical but safe at the same time ‘cos there was a lot of cross chop and foamy stuff on the wave,” Wright explained. “My boards seemed to go through it pretty well and I’m stoked to be into Round 3.
Madison Williams (AUS) was another Australian to make his mark in Round 1 after earning his spot into the main event in place of Dusty Payne (HAW), who withdrew due to injury this morning.
Williams took down Europe’s Nicolau Von Rupp (DEU) and ASP South America ratings leader Charlie Brown (BRA).
Lesser known French surfer Adrian Valero put in a surprise performance, earning the third highest heat total of the day a 15.67, to win his heat over South African’s Klee Strachan and Rudy Palmboom.
American Tanner Gudauskas’s WQS experience paid off when he was able to dispose of Hawaii’s top seed Casey Brown and Giancarlo Zampieri (BRA) while Hawaii’s Tonino Benson advanced in first, with an excellent 8.00 ride this morning.
In the Girls division it was ASP Australasian champion Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) who posted a sensational 9.17 ride off her final wave of the heat, to unseat heat leader and local standout Laura Enever (AUS) in the final minutes of their Round 1 clash.
“All the girls were ripping and I didn’t really get off to the start I wanted,” Fitzgibbons admitted after struggling to post more than average scoring rides for the first half of the heat. “It was tricky out there, I was just lucky to get that good one at the end.”
Both Fitzgibbons and Enever advanced into Round 3 while Alessa Cuizon (HAW) was relegated to Round 2.
Local girl and No. 5 on the ASP Australasia ratings Kirby Wright (AUS) followed in her brother Owen Wright’s footsteps, by taking a convincing win over international junior standout Nikita Robb (ZAF) during Heat 3 this morning.
Wright posted a solid 8.00 point ride, earning her spot in Round 3 while Robb advanced second place and Asako Mizuno (JPN) finishing third, will have to make her way through Round 2.
Also advancing in first place was European Pro Junior champion Pauline Ado (FRA) and Billabong USA Junior Series Champion Courtney Conologue, who defeated Marina Werneck (BRA) and Paige Hareb (NZL) respectively.
All 16 heats of Round 1 of the Boys division were completed as well as four heats of Round 1 of the Girls division.
A total field of 48 junior men, 18 junior women plus four wildcards from eight surfing regions feature in this year’s Billabong ASP World Junior Championships.
The next call will be at 07h30 tomorrow morning.
The event will be broadcast live via the internet on www.billabongpro.com.