Day one of the final event of the Subway Surf Series on the Gold Coast has seen a number of big upsets as some of the big contenders for the Australia / Oceania JQS fell out of the draw in fun 2-to-3 foot peaks at Duranbah Beach. Being the final event of the series means that it is the last chance for competitors from this region to lock themselves a spot in the 2017 World Junior Championship (WJC) to be held in Kiama next January.
The first major upset occurred in elimination round two when number one seed and series leader Reef Heazlewoodwas taken down by Daniel Farr and Morgan Cibilic in one of the lower scoring heats of the round. A nail biting finish saw Cibilic with a late surge, posting a 7.50 with just minutes on the clock to pip Heazlewood's combined heat total by a mere 0.10 of a point.
"Reef's been ripping in every event this year so I'm stoked to get one back on him," Cibilic said. "They are all really fit guys so the paddle battle out there was gnarly. I'm feeling confident about tomorrow, I'm happy with my surfing at the moment."
Heazlewood maintains his position at the top of the leader-board despite today's loss, guaranteeing his spot in the 2017 WJC.
The upsets continued throughout round two with Kiwi sensation Te Kehukehu Butler also taken down in a very close blow for blow battle. Narrabeen's Dylan Moffat impressed the judges late in the heat, lucking into a set wave that allowed him to demonstrate his textbook style, speed and power with seconds to spare. Moffat was awarded a 7.00 which will see him progress to round three on Sunday.
"I was so nervous, I saw Te Kehukekhu paddling on the outside and it looked like it was going to close out and shut down," Moffat said. "I knew there was only 30 seconds left so I had to go because I needed the score. I'm feeling confident going into tomorrow now, knowing I can get scores under pressure."
With some of the competition favourites being knocked out early, there is now the opportunity for others to climb the ratings for the series finale. South Coast regular footer Lucas Wrice looked comfortable in his round two heat and will progress through to round three tomorrow where he will face a super heat draw including Joel Paxton, Morgan Cibilic and Dextar Muskens.
"I had a bad start to that heat but bounced back, I'm now more confident in my surfing going into tomorrow. Mikey and Sandon are definitely two to watch." Wrice said.
In the girl's division, Zahli Kelly lit up the stage in the curtain raiser in front of a crowded beach. With only three waves on the score board, Kelly cruised through her round one heat to progress through to round two where she will meet 2016 World Junior Champion and number one seed Macy CallaghanMacy Callaghan.
"I'm just taking it heat by heat this weekend and trying not to think about the Junior Qualifying Series. I'm treating today like a free surf." Said Kelly.
Kelly is the major threat to current rankings leader Alyssa Lock who will hit the water in Women's Round 2 and fight to take out the regional title.
With all of this in mind, the finals day should be an exciting race to see who will fly the Australia / Oceania flag in Kiama.