- 08 July 2009 | Surfing
Australia’s top junior surfers did 1999 World Surfing Champion Mark “Occy” Occhilupo proud on the Gold Coast today, with the sixth annual Billabong Occy Grom Comp wrapping up in building conditions at Duranbah.
After five full days of top class, grommet surfing, Australia’s premier junior tournament drew to a close, with champions crowned across five respective divisions.
Occy oversaw the opening day of his grommet event before jetting off to South Africa to compete against three-time World Champion Tom Curren (USA) in a ‘Clash of the Icons’ at the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay. The powerful goofy footer could not pass up on the opportunity to face Curren on the legendary point break which he is renowned for surfing backside better than anyone.
Even with the Australian surfing legend absent for the final day of competition, the country’s next wave of surfing champions rose to the occasion, busting out a fresh brand of surfing in rising 3-4ft (1-metre) beach break waves.
Port Macquarie star Matt Banting did his surfing credentials no harm after toppling a swag of the nation’s top young guns to bag the blue ribbon 16 and under boy’s crown in the final heat of the day.
A standout from start to finish, the exciting natural foot roused plenty of attention from the spectators on the beach, mixing solid carving moves with a fast, innovative approach to beat Cabarita’s Damien Norman, Bali’s Purta Hermanwan and Merewether’s Jake Sylvester in a high-scoring, 25 minute final.
14-year-old Banting was the superior surfer all day, surfing four times en route to the final before finalising an impressive campaign with a final total of 15.40 (out of a possible 20) to Norman’s 14.50.
Banting, who won the 14 boy’s division in last year’s event, setup the win with his opening ride (8.67) before going on to seal victory with a last-minute 6.73.
“I was very nervous heading into the closing minutes of the final,” said Banting.
“I could hear everyone screaming on the beach and knew there was a few sets coming. Luckily I got one that offered a few sections for me to lay down a few good turns and post the score I needed.”
Norman did enough to net second, leaving Hermanwan (13.77) in third and Sylvester (7.83) in fourth.
Lennox Head ace Tyler Wright continued her winning streak at the prestigious junior tournament, bagging an unprecedented fifth consecutive Occy Grom Comp title.
Backing up her win in last year’s 16 and under division and three previous 14 and under victories, the 15-year-old sensation further stamped her reputation as the next big thing in Australian surfing, taking down a stacked field of the country’s finest female junior surfers to add the blue ribbon 16 girl's crown to her name.
“This is the event every kid wants to win,” said Wright.
“I’ve been coming to this event since its inception and it just keeps on getting better for me. I’m stoked.”
Wright laid the foundations for her win on her opening two waves of final, netting a 8.67 and 7.67 to finish with a combined two-wave total of 16.34.
Tugun ripper Sarah Mason finishing in second on 15.57, with fellow Gold Coaster Brodie Doyle (Coolangatta) in third on 11.06. Phillip Island’s Nikki Van Dijk (5.23) rounding out the final in fourth.
Post final, Wright said she was stoked to set a record in an event named after one of her surfing idols.
“He’s definitely an inspiration to every grommet in Australia.”
“His backhand attack is amazing and I feel privileged to win this event.”
Joining Wright and Banting on the day’s winner’s podium was South African goofy foot Benji Brand, who trumped a class field in the 14 and under boys.
Brand, whose surfing has a striking resemblance to Occy’s, lived up to expectation, disposing of Tahiti’s Keoni Yan, Byron Bay’s Soli Bailey and Lennox Head’s Michael Wright with a radical backhand attack.
Brand went from strength-to-strength in the final, netting a pair of 8’s to finish with a 16.66 two-wave combination to Yan’s 15.20.
The 14 girls division was also finalised today with the cream of Australia’s junior surfing fraternity going head-to-head as a new breed of female stars made their mark.
Byron Bay blaster Kirsten Ogden shot into the limelight with her own brand of backhand surfing, upstaging Tahiti’s Poppke Karelle, Victoria’s Zoe Clarke and New Zealand’s Jayda Martin Fitzhar in the 20-minute final.
The 12 boys final was just as entertaining, with Margaret River’s Jack Robinson getting the better of Wurtulla’s Kai Hing, California’s Kanoa Igarashi and Angourie’s Jeames Young in the battle on the ‘micro-groms’.
The Billabong Occy Grom Comp was made possible through the support of Billabong, Sony, Virgin Blue, VW, Surfing Queensland and Mark Occhilupo.