Stop two on the Hydralyte Sports Surf Series presented by Hyundai kicked off today in difficult two-foot conditions as some of the world's most promising junior surfers aimed to earn their spot into the final day of competition.
Following the shock first-round elimination of current World Surf League (WSL) Junior Rankings leader Molly Picklum (Shelly Beach, NSW) today, the ball has landed in the court of second and third placeholders Nyxie Ryan (Lennox Head, NSW) and Hollie Williams (Sunshine Coast, Qld) to narrow the gap as they continue their campaigns at Cronulla. Both Ryan and Williams put on respectable performances in their opening exchanges, claiming wins and posting two-wave heat totals in the 12-point range. Both surfers will surf in opposing sides of the draw when they tackle their quarterfinals tomorrow.
"The conditions were tricky out there for sure. I knew it'd just be best to stay as busy as I could," said Ryan. "I haven't looked at the rankings too much as I'm focusing mainly on the event and just trying to take every heat as it comes."
Coached by former world number two Brad Gerlach, Taro Watanabe (USA) used his light-footed approach to positive effect, nailing a variety of mushy sections in his opening heat. Watanabe nailed a handful of lightning-fast snaps and carves in the heat to post a respectable 11.60 two-wave heat total to gain the win over perpetual event threat Tane Bowden (NZL) who claimed the second spot.
"The waves were small, but they were fun if you could find them," said Watanabe. "I was recently staying at my coach Gerr's place at Torquay and thought it would a really good experience to come up here and surf against some of the Aussie junior surfers."
Recent Rip Curl Pro wildcard Xavier Huxtable (Jan Juc, Vic) used the momentum of having recently surfed a heat with 11-times World Champion Kelly Slater and Brazilian standout Felipe Toledo to propel him to claim a victory in the first round at Cronulla. The Victorian natural-footer remained busy over the course of his first heat posting his two-wave heat total in the opening five minutes of the heat. Huxtable performed a handful of impressive turns to post a 12.65 two-wave heat total.
"Surfing in my first CT (Championship Tour) event was such a great experience and thankfully we got some really fun waves at Winkipop for my heat," said Huxtable. "I think having those heats helped my confidence a lot as you get the chance to watch and learn from the world's best. Hopefully, I can use it to keep getting through heats here in Cronulla."
Having recently returned from a sponsor trip to Bells Beach, Joel Vaughan (Bateau Bay, NSW) came into Cronulla feeling confident and eager to put on a solid performance in his opening heat. Vaughan executed a barrage of giant backside snaps in the heat to finish with a 14.75 two-wave heat total to cement his spot into round three.
"Surfing a lot down in Victoria and around the event at Bells definitely opened my eyes and helped me build my surfing I think," said Vaughan. "I felt pretty good as I went out in that heat, so I hope I can continue to build on that as we head into finals day tomorrow."
The main base for the Hydralyte Sports Surf Series presented by Hyundai is North Cronulla with backup locations of Elouera and Wanda.