It was four seasons in one day at the Billabong Junior Series Seal Point in Seal Point, Cape St Francis, with competitors battling each other as well as the elements in the blustery conditions. The day started with glassy three-foot sets, but a squall descended and the sea was whipped up by pouring rain and fierce offshore winds.
The Billabong Junior Series has been running for 21 years and is one of the longest Junior Series in the world, consistently delivering professional surfers to the World Surf League's World Qualifying Series. Current QS competitors that have graduated from the series include Dylan Lightfoot, Matthew McGillivray, David Van Zyl and Beyrick De Vries to name a few.
The rain stopped, and the Men and Women's Junior Tour surfers were sent out for their first round heats. The Men's division was sent out first, and it was young Bryce Du Preez who showed everyone that the waves were highly contestable, banking a top wave score of 6.67 and a heat total of 13.17 points for the win in the first heat, advancing with runner-up Thomas Lindhorst.
York Van Jaarsveldt was victorious in the second heat, narrowly beating Karl Steen into the second position. Both Van Jaarsveldt and Steen have shown incredible maturity in their surfing over the last few months, and they look destined for bigger things. Both their performances were polished and explosive, despite the challenging conditions.
Aya Gericke was the top surfer in the third heat, surfing extremely close to the rocks in order to extract the most points from his highest scoring wave, which came in at a 6.17, and together with his 5.67 saw him take control of the heat. He advanced along with Brad Scott.
The last heat of the first round for men was an action-packed affair with the results changing a number of times during the first half. Eventually Luke Thompson showed his skills, picking up a solid runner at the top of the point for a great score of 6.83 - the highest scoring wave of the heat - which saw him through to a very comfortable win ahead of Daniel Emslie.
In the early afternoon the wind continued to howl offshore, the tide started pushing in over the rocks, and the waves continued to run down the point in the highly contestable but very shallow conditions. Still, there were sets out there and good opportunities for the surfers, and everyone took to the waves with gusto, determined for points, prize-money and glory that comes with winning a WSL Junior Series event, as well as possibly a Series Victory.
In the opening heat of the Women' event, it was Ceara Knight who came through victorious, beating the top-ranked surfer Kai Woolf into second place, with talented young Gabriella Lailvaux unluckily pushed into third spot. Knight has shown immense improvement in her surfing lately with fast, powerful turns on the wind-affected faces getting her all the attention from the judges.
"It was actually pretty good out there, despite the wind," said Ceara of the conditions in her heat. "I just had to drive through my turns more, so that I wouldn't get blown over the back of the waves in the wind. I was really stoked to beat Kai, and I'm now really excited about the rest of the contest."
Other standout performances in the girls division came from Kayla Nogueira, Kirsty McGillivray, the talented Zoë Steyn, Tayla De Coning, Aimee Du Preez and Olivia Izzard, who all surfed well enough in the challenging conditions to advance to the next round.
The forecast looks great for tomorrow, when the Pro Juniors will surf first thing in the morning to determine who will advance to the final day on Sunday.