Mikey McDonagh and Kirra-Belle Olsson have taken top honours at the inaugural Hydralyte Sports Shoalhaven Pro Junior, following a day of exciting performances in punchy two-foot peaks.
After a relatively slow start to 2018, Mikey McDonagh was able to gain momentum through the rounds of the Hydralyte Sports Shoalhaven Pro Junior, eventually taking the win. McDonagh found a handful of average waves in the shifty lineup to notch up a 10.25 two-wave heat total and take victory ahead of Chell.
"I had such a shaky start to 2018 and honestly it wasn't what I expected after having a good year last year," said McDonagh. "I came into 2018 wanting to do better and just had a bunch of bad losses. When I came here to Culburra, I just didn't put any expectations on myself at all and had a bit of a different approach. Now that I've got this win I definitely feel like my confidence has built and I'm ready for the final two juniors events of the year."
Setting the goal to only make it through the first round in each of the Pro Junior events he entered in 2018, 14-year-old Lennox Chell surpassed his own expectations in Culburra Beach, claiming a runner-up finish. Chell caught an abundance of waves over the course of the final, scratching into 14 waves, but was unable to find the necessary 6.75 to take away McDonagh's lead. The Hydralyte Sports Shoalhaven Pro Junior is Chell's second final appearance from as many events. As a result, Chell was awarded the AirAsia Wave Of The Day award.
"I honestly can't believe I made a final," said Chell. "My goal in every Pro Junior was just to make it through one heat, so no matter what the result is, I'm just so happy to make the final. Conditions changed a lot through the day and unfortunately I couldn't buy a wave in the final, but either way I'm just so happy."
Kirra-Belle Olsson's dream of winning a Pro Junior came true today when she took down a blisteringly in-form Zahli Kelly in the Girls final. In what deteriorated into windswept peaks by finals time, Olsson was able to execute a variety of giant turns to muster up a respectable 12.50 to claim her maiden Pro Junior win.
"My goal for 2018 is to win the rankings [Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) rankings] and I know I have a bit of work to do, but hopefully this will help my confidence in the final three events of the year," said Olsson. "Zahli is a great competitor and she's always scary to have in a heat. Even though she's only 14, she can do airs and post big scores so I knew I'd have to keep an eye out for her. Thankfully, I have some great boards under my feet and I think that definitely helped me a lot."
Zahli Kelly continued to build on her three consecutive finals appearances, taking out the runner-up spot. Kelly remained busy over the duration of the final, catching 12 waves, however, she was unable to find the required 7.6 wave score to take away Olsson's lead. Following the result, Kelly will retain the top spot on the World Surf League (WSL) Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) rankings.
"It's always a great feeling to make a final. This is my fourth Pro Junior event that I've done this year and I've made four finals, so I'm stoked," said Kelly. "I knew that if Kirra got any wave with scoring potential then she'd go crazy and potentially get an excellent score, so I figured I'd have to remain busy and hope for the best."