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Jeep World Junior Championship: Alyssa Spencer Steps Up

For all intents and purposes, a surf competition doesn't really start in earnest until someone loses. That's when the rubber truly hits the road. After the culmination of Round One yesterday, the first elimination heats of the Jeep World Junior Championship began today at Kiama's Bombo Beach in small but silky, backlit conditions.

Alyssa Spencer of USA advances to Round Three of the 2018 Jeep World Junior Championship after winning Heat 1 of Round Two at Kiama, NSW, Australia. Alyssa Spencer celebrates her Round Two win over South African Sophie Bell. WSL / Matt Dunbar

And Californian Alyssa Spencer didn't waste any time setting the benchmark first thing in the morning during the opening heat of the day. Spencer matched Macy Callaghan's top-scoring ride on Day One with three fin-release hacks on a glassy left runner, equaling the highest single ride of the event so far -- 9.50.

"It was actually pretty tricky out there because the tide was coming in and it's getting a lot slower, but I guess I managed to find a few, it was fun," she said. "I told myself I was going to just wait for the sets, but only two or three sets came in the whole heat and I missed a few, but that 9 was definitely a good wave."

Summer Macedo of Hawaii advances to Round Three of the 2018 Jeep World Junior Championship after winning Heat 3 of Round Two at Kiama, NSW, Australia. Hawaiian Summer Macedo used a series of forehand hacks to take her Round Two heat win. WSL / Matt Dunbar

Later, Summer Macedo from Lahaina, Maui, rebounded from a disappointing Round One result, finding her rhythm in the shifting peaks off the southern sand bank. Macedo used a lined-up right with a steep wall to post the second highest wave score of the early heats -- a 7.83.

"Sitting in first priority is kinda dangerous in these slow conditions," said Macedo. "I just wanted to ride more waves today. But a result here would mean a lot, making the final or winning would be incredible. I think this event is a stepping stone to getting onto the Qualifying Series for my first year."

In an ironic twist of intersecting lives on the international pro junior circuit, Summer's brother, Ocean, will face off against her boyfriend, Reef Heazlewood, in Round Two when the men's event resumes.

Kirra Pinkerton winning Heat 5 of Round 2 at the Jeep World Junior Championship. Californian Kirra Pinkerton won the best heat of Round Two over Japan's Sara Wakita. WSL / Ethan Smith / WSL

Team USA was once again at the center of attention for the best heat of the day, a compelling clash between Californian Kirra Pinkerton and North Shore transplant Sara Wakita surfing under the Japanese flag. Both are daughters of pro-surfer fathers. Sara's dad, Takayuki, has a takeoff spot at Pipeline named after him, while Kirra's dad, Jim, competed on the Mainland USA's Bud Pro Tour back in its heyday in the 1990s.

In a contrast of strategies, the two surfers sat on opposite sites of the contest area, separated by 100 yards of gorgeous, turquoise-colored water. Pinkerton, the recipient of a costly paddling interference in Round One, stayed busy on the south bank, controlling the first 25 minutes of their do-or-die faceoff.

But Wakita, sitting to the north, saved her best for last. With five minutes remaining she locked in a 7.10. Then -- still needing a 8.74 to turn the heat -- she scored an 8.57 on the buzzer. It was a stressful few moments for both surfers as they waited for the judges' scores to drop.

"I saw Sara's wave and looked down the beach and said, 'Are you kidding me? This is not happening right now!,'" joked a relieved Pinkerton, who moves on to Round Three. "It's probably the worst thing that can happen in a heat, you think you've got and then it you lose in the last 10 seconds."

Women's Round Two Results:
Heat 1: Alyssa Spencer (USA) 16.00 def. Sophie Bell (ZAF) 4.63
Heat 2: Zahli Kelly (AUS) 11.16 def. Kayla Nogueira (ZAF) 7.27
Heat 3: Summer Macedo (HAW) 14.26 def. Ellie Turner (GBR) 9.30
Heat 4: Alyssa Lock (AUS) 10.97 def. Sol Aguirre (PER) 8.33
Heat 5: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 15.84 def. Sara Wakita (JPN) 15.67
Heat 6: Taina Hinckel (BRA) 11.93 def. Shino Matsuda (JPN) 9.27

With a promising Surfline forecast for the next couple of days, there's a good chance both the women and men will hit the water for Round Three this weekend. Be sure to check in tomorrow starting at 12:15 p.m. PST for more action.

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