Some of Australia's best and most competitive junior surfers got their chance to shine in three-foot conditions at Lennox Head today with the opening rounds of the WSL Pro Junior event getting underway.
The early heats in the male division were blessed with beautiful conditions before a light onshore hit the line-up later in the afternoon.
Fresh off a victory at the recent Nias Pro QS 5000 in Indonesia, Marlon Harrison (Coolangatta, Qld) showed his small wave repertoire remained as sharp as ever, smashing his opening boys heat. Harrison remained patient over the course of his first-round exchange, only catching three waves, but still making each score contribute to his overall score line. When the final hooter sounded, Harrison claimed the victory with a two-wave total of 13.87.
"I think I'm still on a bit of a high from the win in Indonesia, so I was pretty eager to get the rashie on and hopefully keep some momentum going," said Harrison. "I've lost count how many times I've competed in this event but I really want to do well in the Pro Junior and hopefully qualify for the World Juniors by the end of the year."
Originally hailing from Spain, but now residing on the Gold Coast, Sean Gunning (Spain) showed he was more than capable of sticking it to his Australian rivals as he performed a multitude of critical backside snaps to get a first-round win. Gunning got off to a slow start in the heat, posting a handful of mid-range five-point rides before finding a powerful little right that allowed him to notch up an 8.33 wave score, which gave him the edge over his fellow competitors. Gunning will meet Oliver Ryssenbeek, Bohdie Williams and Ash Jenner in the second round of the Pro Junior.
"The waves looked really good, but it was a little bit tough because it was so slow," said Gunning. "The conditions here are similar to Spanish beach breaks, so I'm pretty used to waves like this. I knew that I may need to wait for the sets as they were really the only waves that had potential and fortunately for me a good one came towards the end of the heat. This is my last year in the Pro Juniors and I'm pretty sure this is my last event, so I really want to make it count and hopefully get the win."
Recent Nias Pro Champions Sai Maniwa (Japan) looked like her recent run of luck was set to run out as she was left needing a small score in order to progress through her first Pro Junior heat. With only a few minutes left on the clock and the onshore winds playing havoc with the conditions, Maniwa was able to muster up a low score which proved to be just enough to propel her into the lead and progress through the heat.
"I felt like I did well on my first wave, but it really slowed up and I found it really hard to get a second wave. Thankfully I held onto priority when a small wave came through and allowed me to get a big enough score to progress into first position," said Maniwa. "I won the Under-14 division in this event back in 2017, so I'm really hoping I can get another win here in the Pro Junior this year. I've been working hard with my coach, Michael Crisp on this event and I hope I can improve as the comp goes on."