Eight new champions were crowned at the 2018 Skullcandy Oz Grom Open presented by Vissla following a morning of stacked heats in challenging one-foot-surf.
Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL) claimed his first WSL Pro Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) victory for 2018, taking out the coveted Men's Pro Junior division. The powerful Kiwi natural-footer didn't let the small waves stop him from posting big scores, nailing an excellent 8.27 scoring wave to get the edge over his opposition. To sweeten the win, Butler was greeted by the traditional Maori Haka when he made his way to the beach.
"I'm feeling great after that," said Butler. "I thought I was done for in that heat, but as I sat in the hole in the break, a wider wave came to me which allowed me to get the win. I've been doing this event in Lennox since I was really young and next year I'll be too old to do it. I'm going to miss hanging up the top in the park before my heats and playing rugby, so it's a little sad, but it's definitely a good way to finish up my time competing here."
Hailing from only half-an-hour south of Lennox Head, Callum Robson (Evans Head, NSW) showed his knowledge of northern NSW beachbreak conditions, claiming the runner-up finish behind Butler. Robson led the charge for a solid portion of the heat but was unable to claw back the lead after Butler posted the aforementioned 8.27. Robson finished the final with a 12.74 two-wave heat total to his name.
"This event really was one of my last chances to get a good result," said Robson. "I struggled in the last two junior events so I really wanted a good result here. Plus, it's only half-an-hour from my house so it felt more special to come runner-up so close to home. Hopefully, I can carry a bit of the momentum into the final event in Cronulla."
Nyxie Ryan (Lennox Head, NSW) claimed her maiden JQS victory, winning the Women's division on her homebreak. Surfing well-beyond her years, Ryan nailed an array of different turns to post an excellent 8.23 wave score as well as a 7.1 to amass a 15.33 two-wave heat total. After only competing in two other JQS events prior to the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open presented by Vissla, Ryan's win will allow her to make a significant jump in the 2018 rankings.
"This is one of the best results I've had," said Ryan. "My goal was to just make the final, so to go one step further and win feels amazing. Having the support of Le-Ba Boardriders here made the win so much more special. I've only done a few Pro Juniors this year and I'm heading down to Cronulla for the final event of the year, so it would be nice to get another decent result down there."
Surfing in her fifth JQS final for 2018, Zahli Kelly's (Cabarita, NSW) runner-up finish looks like cementing her position at the top of the rankings. Kelly put on a valiant effort over the course of the final, notching up an impressive 14.9 two-wave heat total, but was unable to find the required 7.34 wave score to take away Ryan's lead.
"I'm pretty happy with this result," said Kelly. "I'm not 100%, but I think making the final means that I may have locked in a spot into the 2018 World Junior Championship as well, which was my main goal."
The six-day event ran from 13 July -18 July and comprised of a World Surf League (WSL) sanctioned Pro Junior Qualifying Series (JQS) event as well as an elite competition for promising grommets in the 12, 14 and 16 year age divisions.
WSL Pro Junior Men's Final 1 - Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL) 2 - Callum Robson (Evans Head, NSW) 3 - Xavier Huxtable (Jan Juc, Vic) 4 - Dextar Muskens (Tweed Heads, NSW)
WSL Pro Junior Women's Final 1 - Nyxie Ryan (Lennox Head, NSW) 2 - Zahli Kelly (Cabarita, NSW) 3 - Alyssa Lock (Tweed Heads, NSW) 4 - Molly Picklum (Shelly Beach, NSW)
In a similar vein to preceding years - where the event has attracted surfers from ten different countries - a full international field is again expected in 2018 with surfers coming from as far away as Europe, USA and Japan to make up a field of more than 220 surfers across all divisions.
All event divisions results are available via - skullcandyozgromopen.com.au
The 2018 Skullcandy Oz Grom Open presented by Vissla is proudly supported by Skullcandy, Vissla, Ballina Shire Council, Le-Ba Boardriders, WSL and Surfing NSW.