South African surfing prodigy Jordy Smith has won the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, defeating Adriano de Souza (Brazil), winner of the event in 2003.
The pair went wave for wave in the high performance finale, but it was 18 year-old Smith who claimed the victory after taking the lead with 7 minutes remaining in the 35 minute clash courtesy of a 7.67 ride. Smith finished with a heat total of 13.84 to de Souza’s 12.83 to claim a maiden World Title at North Narrabeen, Sydney.
Jordy Smith blasted on the world scene in 2006 when reaching the semi finals of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay last July as a wildcard. He went on with a stellar performance on Hawaii’s North Shore which saw him jump to 26th on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) and challenge for the prestigious Triple Crown.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never really done well in this event so it was great to be able to pull off a win for my family and friends back home in South Africa,” said Smith. “It all feels amazing right now but when it sinks in… I’ll let you know tomorrow!”
Smith admitted that he really had to lift to get past de Souza who only needed just over a 6.0 to get past him. Smith also believed he was also helped when the wind swung offshore which prevented de Souza from launching his typically radical aerial turns.
“Adriano is a terrific surfer and I had to really step it up to go up against him,” said Smith. “Luckily in some ways the wind changed so he couldn’t get the big ramps to launch airs, so yeah I’m happy to come out on top against him.”
Traditionally Smith has struggled here at the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships but this year was showing a lot of confidence, which may have stemmed from his third place against the best in the world at Jeffreys Bay in 2006.
He will now focus on getting on top of the ASP World Qualifying Series so he can match it with the big boys in 2008.
“I’ve definitely got more confidence this year and I just went out there to free surf and luckily I came home with the win,” said Smith. “To get on the Foster’s ASP World Tour is my goal for sure and I’d like to be on there next year so that’s going to be my focus… but right now I’m going to enjoy this moment. To be alongside your heroes like Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson is a dream come true.”
For de Souza the second place was a solid start to 2007 and he indicated that it will give him motivation when his Foster’s ASP World Tour campaign resumes in just over a month’s time.
De Souza still has one year remaining in the juniors and can come back to claim a second title in 2008.
“It was a good final and I’m stoked for Jordy right now,” said de Souza. “It was good to start the year with a second so I’m happy. I still have another year left so hopefully I’ll get to come back to Narrabeen next year and do it for Brazil and win it for the second time. It’s great to get going and hopefully I can go further than last year on the first Foster’s ASP World Tour event on the Gold Coast where I finished in third last year.”
Finishing in equal third place was Australian hopeful Matt Wilkinson. The goofyfooter put on some of the event’s best performances in early rounds – in fact claiming the highest total of the event in his round four heat, an 18.37 out of 20. But by his own admission he felt he might have peaked too early: “Yeah I think I may have used up all my 9.0s yesterday unfortunately,” said Wilkinson. “I just couldn’t find a steep wave through the whole semi out there this morning. I felt even with a minute to go I could have scored the 9.0 that was needed, because if you do one air and link together some decent turns the judges are throwing some big scores. I just couldn’t find the waves out there in the end.”
Earlier in the weekend, Australian Nicola Atherton won the Women’s division against fellow Billabong team member Anali Gomez, of Peru. The Australian surfer took the most of the one-meter waves on offer for the finals and cemented her victory with a 8,17 wave.
European surfers put on a good performance in the Billabong World Junior Championships, with Jean Sebastian Estienne (Guadeloupe) reaching Round 4 (where he was eliminated by Jordy Smith) and Pierre Valentin Laborde making it to the Quarter Finals.
In the Girl’s Division, the three french surfers Lee Ann Curren, Pauline Ado and Alizee Arnaud reached the Quarter Finals.
Seen as a stepping-stone to elite world tour, the The Billabong ASP World Junior Championship, 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. 14 nationalities are represented at the titles.
Each of the representatives has won through gruelling 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 the sport.
The eventual victors will stand alongside the 2006 elite men’s world tour winner Kelly Slater and Layne Beachely 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.
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.67 def Hank Gaskell (HAW) 14.50
Heat 2: Adrian de Souza (BRA) 11.16 def Thiago Camarao (BRA) 5.33
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (AUS) 12.00 def Pierre-Valentin Lombard (FRA) 8.27
Heat 4: Mason Ho (HAW) 12.84 def Torrey Meister (HAW) 11.50
Semi 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.40 def Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.50
Semi 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.80 def Mason Ho (HAW) 4.20
Final: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.84 def Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.83
Final Team Results:
1st: South America 2774
2nd: Australasia 2486
3rd: Hawaii 2474
4th: Africa 2432
5th: Europe 1967
6th: Japan 1460
7th: USA 1270