Beginning January 4 - 12, 2018, a collection of the best Junior competitive surfers on the planet will gather in Kiama, NSW, Australia, for the Jeep World Junior Championship. The World Juniors return to Kiama's Bombo Beach for the second consecutive year, a location on New South Wales' southeastern coast known for its beautiful scenery and craggy coastline.
The World Juniors event has a reputation for providing an astonishing barometer of things to come, with past champs like Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, Adriano de Souza and Gabriel Medina going on to Championship Tour (CT) glory. Last year, the men's Final featured a clash between two of the hottest pro prospects to come along in years -- Aussie winner Ethan Ewing and Californian runner-up Griffin Colapinto. Ewing completed his rookie year on the CT in 2017, while Colapinto won the '17 Qualifying Series (QS) Title as well as the Triple Crown of Surfing. He'll join the rest of the New Era Rookies on the CT in 2018.
Reef Heazlewood (AUS)
Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, Reef Heazlewood is a stylishly powerful goofyfoot in the tradition of other legendary Aussie goofies like Owen Wright and Luke Egan. He qualified for the event as the No. 1-ranked surfer in the Australia/Oceania region. "I'm so stoked to win the regional Junior Qualifying Series (JQS,)" Heazlewood said. "It was my main goal this year and it feels great to achieve that. The JQS is amazing, it's great preparation for the QS and beyond. It's been a great 2017 so far, I'm over the moon."
Mateus Herdy (BRA)
The nephew of former Brazilian CT surfer Guilherme Herdy, Mateus Herdy is a radical naturalfoot known for his aerials and above-the-lip game. He finished the year as the No. 1 ranked Junior surfer in the South America region and won three International Junior events this season. Mateus has been on the Brazilian media's radar for a couple of years now, but looks poised to break through internationally in 2018.
Barron Mamiya (HAW)
Fresh off a Triple Crown Rookie of the Year campaign on the North Shore this past winter -- which including a 5th place finish in bombing conditions at Sunset Beach for the Vans World Cup -- 17-year-old Barron Mamiya is part of an impressive crop of teenagers emerging from the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region. Yet, Barron may be the most talented of the bunch and if he can somehow learn to translate his North Shore game to less powerful conditions he'll take the QS by storm.
Ryland Rubens (USA)
Ryland Rubens hails from one of San Diego's city beaches, Ocean Beach, home to a bustling pier scene and consistent, quality wintertime waves nearby. Rubens used a win at the Ron Jon Vans Junior Pro to jump out to an early ratings lead and never looked back. "It feels nice to look back at this year and, even though there were some ups and downs, know I held the lead the entire year to earn this title," Rubens said. "I think I got complacent towards the end after having that lead for so long and that's what nearly got me. I learned it's a marathon, not a sprint, and to also not get too high on the highs, or too low on the lows.
Jake Elkington (ZAF)
One half of the Elkington brothers duo, Jake Elkington finished as the No. 1-ranked Junior in the Africa region. He'll be joined by young brother, Max, in Kiama as part of the South African contingent that performed well overall last year at the World Juniors. "This is my final year as a junior surfer and it's been the best year of my career so far. I'd never won a WSL Pro Junior event and this year I won three, which has been a huge confidence booster," Elkington explained.
Wildcard: Team Hawaii
Once again, the ridiculously deep Hawaiian team arrives boasting some serious fire power. Last year, Hawaii sent two surfers into the Semifinal round -- Finn McGill and Cody Young -- and the Rainbow Warriors will look to repeat that performance this year. Alongside Mamiya, McGill and Young are back once again, this time supported by über-grom, Eli Hanneman. The kid from Maui is perhaps the most talented under-16 surfer on the planet.