Coinciding with the annual festive season and the turn of the calendar to 2017, many of the world's best 18-and-under junior surfers have gathered in Kiama, NSW, Australia for the WSL World Junior Championship. Located a 1.5 hour drive south of Sydney along the wave-rich region of NSW's south coast, Kiama is all coastal beauty, dotted with headlands, bays, points and miles of empty beaches.
A shifting sandbar of the northern end of Bombo Beach, specifically, is where Round One action took place on opening day of a 10-day waiting period. In what WSL color-man Luke Egan called "typical summertime surf in New South Wales," the event kicked off in two-to-three foot, short interval, beachbreak reforms looking strikingly similar to July in Huntington Beach, halfway across the globe.
The event's two top seeds, Ethan Ewing and Griffin Colapinto, performed up to their highly-touted credentials. Ewing will be joining the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour this year by virtue of his 2nd-place finish on the Qualifying Tour rankings, but struggled to find the waves he wanted early in Heat 6.
"When I got out there it seemed to slow right down," he said. "I didn't get a wave for ages so I had to focus on the smaller ones just to get a score and get my heat started which wasn't ideal, said the No. 1 ranked surfer in the draw. Although it would be easy to be distracted by his Dream Tour call-up, Ewing sounds focused: "It would be great to win this event, it's my first and last World Junior Championship."
Fellow title favorites, Colapinto and Weslley Dantas (younger brother to CT surfer Wiggolly Dantas), both used their air game to get the nod in their Round One heats. Colapinto just missed on a huge frontside 540 huck into the flats, a move eerily similar to the turn that shocked the world at the Hawaiian Pro back in November.
Equally impressive were a pair of lanky underdogs from the Cape Town area of South Africa, Jordy Maree and Adin Masencamp, although it may be a stretch to call a four-time South African Champ like Masencamp an underdog, such is the talent level of this event. "I never really think much about names before a heat," he said. "Round One heats are always a worry regardless of who you're up against so I just wanted to stay busy and get my scores early, it seemed to work so I am stoked."