The WSL Australia / Oceania Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) has recommenced today with the Hydralyte Sports Pro Junior Gold Coast kicking off in pumping waves at Currumbin. It was a solid day of competition with men's Round 1 and 2 being completed along with women's Round 1 in clean 3-to-4 foot beach break peaks.
The Opening heat of the women's saw current WSL Australia / Oceania JQS ratings leader Zahli Kelly put on a dominating display to book herself a spot in the Quarterfinals. Kelly was in good rhythm on her forehand to progress in top spot with a heat total of 13.50. Having finished second on the Gold Coast last year, Kelly is keen to go one step further in 2018.
"This is probably the best I've ever seen Currumbin," Kelly said. "There are so many perfect right-handers coming through out there it's so much fun. I came really close to winning this event last year so I definitely want to go one further this year and take the win - that's my major goal this weekend. There has been a spread in events this season which has been good as it has allowed us to train a lot and work on areas."
Sydney surfer Bodhi Leigh-Jones played a patient game in her Round 1 match-up with Sophia Chapman, Ariana Shewry and Jesse Starling. While her opponents jousted for the lead, Leigh-Jones waited for the long running set waves and it paid off as she posted the equal highest single wave score of the Round, an 8.50 to win the heat and progress into the Quarterfinals.
"That wave felt so good," Leigh-Jones said. "I was watching it for a while before my heat and it seemed like it would be hard to pick them so I was stoked to get a couple of good ones. After the swell was so small yesterday we didn't know what to expect so to rock up and have pumping conditions like this is sick, we're all so stoked."
With two Semifinal finishes to her name in 2018, Kirra-Belle Olsson is still searching for a final berth this season and in Round 1 on the Gold Coast she made her intentions clear, posting the highest heat total of the event so far, a 16.50 (out of a possible 20). Olsson is known for her razor-sharp backhand and was always going to be one to watch in the long right-handers on offer at Currumbin on Day 1.
"I've been surfing in a lot of Qualifying Series events this year so have learned a lot from the older more experienced women competitors," Olsson said. "It's good to be able to put what I've learned to work and it felt like it worked well today. These are the best waves I've surfed in a contest for a long time and the rights are really good which suites me so I'm stoked."
With just three minutes left on the clock and sitting in third place behind current Australia/Oceania Junior Qualifying Series leader Callum Robson, Lennox Chell played the patience game and utilising his priority locked into one of the bigger waves of the day. Needing a score in the mid range (4.00 - 5.00) Chell unleashed his back hand power with two critical turns in the pocket topped off with a huge hit off the end section to claim one of the highest single wave scores of the day an 8.75. This heat topping score pushed Chell into first place and forced Robson into third and with not enough time left on the clock saw him eliminated from the contest, leaving the doors wide open for a new series rankings leader.
"I knew I didn't need too much of a score so I let a few of the smaller waves go and saw Callum get one," said Chell. "When I checked the time and then saw a set coming through I knew I had to go. When I took off I it looked like a good one and I didn't want to safety surf I just wanted to surf it well, you may as well go down swinging."
Kyuss King has been at the forefront of junior surfing for a few years now and his talent is undeniable. There is one thing that has continued to elude him and that is a spot in the World Junior Championships. Currently sitting in 8th on the WSL Australia / Oceania JQS ratings, King is in need of a big result here on the Gold Coast and today his campaign started strongly with a heat win that included the equal highest single wave score of the day, an 8.75.
"I haven't been to the World Junior Championships before so I'm keen to keep building momentum and make it there this year," King said. "I'm feeling solid at the moment and it was good to get through that opening round with a win especially in such fun waves."
Kiwi sensation Te Kehukehu Butler continued his solid form in 2018 with a heat win in Round 2. Butler showed epic front-side finesse to post a near excellent heat total of 15.75 and progress into the final day of competition on the Gold Coast.
"The waves are so fun out there today - it's absolutely pumping." Butler said. "It's been a while since our last event so it's good to be back competing especially in pumping waves. I'm excited to make it through and can't wait to see what tomorrow brings."