The 2016 World Junior Championship is underway at Kiama on the NSW South Coast with Men's and Women's Round 1 being wrapped up. Surfing's biggest names aged 18-and-under were treated to peaky 2-to-3 foot waves at Bombo Beach with light onshore winds.
First heat of the day saw one of the events biggest names hit the water in Wessley Dantas from Brazil. Dantas, who is the younger brother of Championship Tour star Wiggoly Dantas, had his work cut out for him coming up against Hawaiian duo Noa Mizuno and Logan Bediamol. As his competitors struggled to back up their top scoring waves, Dantas managed to take the heat with a two-wave total of 13.00 (out of a possible 20) with some solid power surfing.
"The first heat of the contest is always such a tough one," Dantas said. "The first heat is when the judges set their scale so you never really know what you need to do to get a score. I was really nervous because of this so I am really happy to make it through to Round 3."
Young American Jake Marshall played a very patient game in his Round 1 match up, only catching three waves for his whole heat. His first two were enough to give him a slender lead and after searching nervously for a wave that could solidify his lead, Marshall took off on a left and went to town, going upside-down on his closeout turn. The judges loved what they saw and rewarded the natural footer an excellent single wave score of an 8.33, the highest single wave score of the event so far.
"This is the first event I've surfed in ages so it felt good to get back into rhythm," Marshall said. "That heat was really slow at the beginning so I only had a couple of scores which meant the other guys could have easily taken the lead from me. Luckily, the left I got seemed to line up and I got a few turns off. Skipping Round 2 is so important because you have more time to prepare and relax."
All eyes were on Heat 6 of Round 1 as Australasia 2016 JQS Champion and 2017 CT rookie Ethan Ewing hit the water. As the ocean slowed down, Ewing remained steely, waiting for a particular type of wave. He was able to snag a couple of rare right-handers to post a modest heat total of 11.26 to progress into Round 3. Ewing is enjoying the format of the WJC, which mirrors that of the elite Championship Tour.
"I watched the waves all morning and it looked really good," Ewing said. "When I got out there it seemed to slow right down. 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. I've been surfing a lot the last few days just getting used to this place in all different conditions."
The last heat of Men's Round 1 saw a massive upset as South African Adin Masencamp took down the higher seeds of Harley Ross-Webster and American Nolan Rapoza. Masencamp posted two average scores early to hold the lead and then put the nail in the coffin with a 6.83 late in the heat to progress into Round 3.
"I never really think much about names before a heat," Masencamp said. "Round 1 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."
Winning her maiden Junior World Title in 2014 and finishing runner up in 2015, Hawaiian Mahena Maeda is one of the most accomplished 18 year-old female surfers on the planet, which she proved in her Round 1 heat. As the tide began to drop and conditions slowed, Maeda remained busy, locking in a modest heat total of 9.90 to win the heat and progress into Round 3.
"Coming from Hawaii makes it hard to get used to these shifting beach break conditions," Maeda said. "There was some good waves out there but I found it hard to find them. This year my results haven't been that great, especially compared to my past few years so I'm really trying to work on my consistency. Hopefully I can string a few more heat wins together."
Macy Callaghan dominated her way through her regional Junior Qualifying Series winning 5 of its 8 events. This performance put the entire WJC field on notice and Callaghan reiterated this today with a solid performance in Round 1. Callaghan lead her heat from the opening exchange and managed to hold on with a mid range heat total of 11.03 in the inconsistent conditions.
"That was tough out there," Callaghan said. "There was a lot of average waves but the odd good one so you had to be ready for to go for anything. I feel confident after my run on the JQS and earned my spot like everyone else so I'm confident I can go all the way. I haven't been feeling great so winning in Round 1 and skipping into Round 2 is great."