The 2017 Jeep World Junior Championship is a revealing look into the future of professional surfing. Last year's finalists -- winner Ethan Ewing and runner-up Griffin Colapinto -- have already reached the Championship Tour (CT) level while still in their teens. This annual gathering of 18-and-under talent provides competitors an opportunity to square off against their global counterparts, while vying for a fast-track to the Qualifying Series (QS) and a highly visible position in the shop window of sponsors worldwide.
And perhaps the most compelling thing about the World Junior Champs, however, is the unearthing of talent percolating out of regions that don't get global media attention the way that the traditional powers -- Australia, Hawaii, Brazil and the USA -- typically garner. Surfers like Japan's Momoto Tsuzuki and Frenchman Erwan Blouin, who both sent higher- ranked Top 5 seeds into the do-or-die death matches of Round Two.
And yet, the two standouts on the day were a pair of event favorites, No. 1 seed Cody Young and Brazilian wave wizard Mateus Herdy. Maui-raised Young revealed his dominance after a slow start, banking triple 7s mid-way through his heat (buttoned up with a 6.83), thus turning a competitive showdown with Aussie Lucas Wrice and Tahitian Kauli Vaast into a romp.
Likewise, Herdy ended his Round One clash with both of his opponents still needing a combination of two rides to turn the heat in their favor. Coached up by his Uncle Guilherme (once a CT surfer himself), with a fresh buzz-cut and a one-track mind, he looked revved-up and laser-focused, catching 12 waves in 30 minutes. The most outstanding of the bunch -- a clean, flat-spin backside 540 -- earned the highest single-wave score of the day, an 8.83.
Also worthy of mention at the World Junior Champs, is the attention it draws from many of surfing's most powerful inside players, including a mix of elite coaches and brand marketers eager to showcase their young stars on an international stage. A quick walk along the beach revealed the likes of Luke Egan, Rainos Hayes, Peter Mel and Coach Herdy -- to list more than a few, all imparting their wisdom upon the maturing minds under their watchful eyes.
Even former CT surfer and current athlete agent, Mick Lowe , who grew up surfing along the South Coast's plethora of distinct lineups, was prowling Kiama's Bombo Beach, doing a bit of talent scouting himself. He'll be hoping to find a diamond in the rough on par with the most famous name in his stable -- a certain former Junior World Champ named Mark "Occy" Occhilupo.
2017 WSL Jeep World Junior Championships Men's Round One Results:
Heat 1: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 12.00, def Ryland Rubens (USA) 10.96, Marco Mignot (FRA) 4.43
Heat 2: Mateus Herdy (BRA) 15.16, def Mikey McDonagh (AUS) 8.80, Keanu Kamiyama (JPN) 8.43
Heat 3: Jake Elkington (ZAF) 12.10, def Rio Waida (IDN) 11.40, Ocean Macedo (HAW) 9.33
Heat 4: Barron Mamiya (HAW) 13.60, def Adin Masencamp (ZAF) 7.20, Jhonny Guerrero Yauri (PER) 7.60
Heat 5: Erwan Blouin (FRA) 13.34, def Finn McGill (HAW) 11.60, Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL) 11.56
Heat 6: Cody Young (HAW) 14.97, def Lucas Wrice (AUS) 11.83, Kauli Vaast (FRA) 8.96
Heat 7: Momoto Tsuzuki (JPN) 12.10, def Reef Heazlewood (AUS) 12.04, Theo Julitte (FRA) 11.06
Heat 8: Liam O'Brien (AUS) 13.10, def Tyler Gunter (USA) 10.07, Yuri Ogasawara (JPN) 5.86
Heat 9: Joh Azuchi (JPN) 11.17 def, Joshe Faulkner (ZAF) 9.33, Max Elkington (ZAF) 8.40
Heat 10: Sandon Whittaker (AUS) 12.50, def John Mel (USA), 11.50, Eli Hanneman (HAW) 7.44
Heat 11: Leo Paul Etienne (FRA) 12.27, def Yuji Nishi (JPN) 8.44, Cole Houshmand (USA) 12.00
Heat 12: Che Allan (BRB) 11.80, def Joao Chianca (BRA) 9.27, Ford Van Jaarsveldt (ZAF) 11.17