- 17 September 2009 | Surfing
South Africa’s premier surfing titles for the country’s top 20-and-under performers will be on the line at Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape next week when the Billabong Junior Series champions are crowned in divisions ranging from Pro Junior (U20) for men and women plus Under 16, U14 and U12 boys for the 13th successive year.
The four-day event which runs from Wed-Sat, 23-26 September, will also determine the ASP Africa Pro Junior champions for 2009 and the make-up of the four man and one woman ASP Africa squad invited to the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships in Sydney in January – the pinnacle of junior surfing.
With the exception of Davey Brand, the bronze medalist in the U16 division of the ISA World Junior champs earlier this year, who will be representing SA at the International King of the Groms event in France, the crème-de-la-crème of SA’s junior surfing talent will be psyched up to deliver their best performances at Vic Bay.
The talent-laden field in the R75 000 Grade 2 ASP rated Pro Junior men’s event is headed by Casey Grant, 20, winner of the opening Billabong Pro Junior in his home surf of Scottburgh at Easter and the current ASP Africa ratings leader, who is the top seed for the event.
Grant’s chief opposition comes from every surfing centre on the SA coastline including local standout Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay), Kommetjie’s Matt Bromley and Brendon Gibbens, WQS campaigners Klee Strachan (Winkelspruit) and Chad du Toit (Durban), Dale Staples and Nick Godfrey from Cape St Francis, Umhlanga’s Kyle Lane and fellow Scottburgh ripper Haydn MacNicol.
The R18 000 Grade 1 Pro Junior women’s event will be a titanic struggle with Vic Bay local Bianca Buitendag, 16, up against the more experienced Tarryn Chudleigh, 19, from Kommetjie and last year’s ASP Africa rep at the ASP World Junior champs, Sarah Baum, 15, from Athlone Park. Perennial standouts Heidi Palmboom (Bluff), Chantelle Rautenbach (Melkbosstrand) and Tanika Hoffman (Kommetjie) have the ability to cause upsets along with the rapidly improving Alice McGregor (East London) and Faye Zoetmulder (Port Elizabeth).
Michael February, winner of the Billabong Occy Grom Comp at Jeffreys Bay in July and runner-up in the Scottburgh event at Easter, heads the 40-strong field in the U16 boy’s division. The lanky 16-year-old from Kommetjie will be hard pressed by the likes of Dane Staples (St Francis Bay), Steven Sawyer (Jeffreys Bay), Scottburgh winner David van Zyl (Glenashley) and Capetonians Jarred Veldhuis and Daniel Wilson.
And the boys will also have to be at their best to overcome the challenge presented by the entry of girls Buitendag, Palmboom, Hoffman and particularly Baum who reached the U16 final of the Occy event in July, placing third overall.
Occy Grom comp U14 winner, Daniel Buitendag, now at his home break, will go head-to-head with Scottburgh champion Benji Brand (Kommetjie) with the series title at stake while Slade Prestwich (Park Rynie), Diran Zakarian (Melkbosstrand), Max Armstrong (Scarborough) and Dylan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay) ready to pounce on any slip-up by the top two.
Similarly in the U12 boys, the youngest division, where Shane Sykes (Salt Rock) and Donovan (Marina da Gama) go into the final series event with a win each while Jody Maree (Kalk Bay) is also strongly in contention for the title with a pair of runner-up finishes. Meanwhile Ethan Fletcher and Jonah Paarman (both Kommetjie), Matthew McGillivray (PE) and Steffen Burrows (Strand) are all potential finalists.
The spectacular Von Zipper Air Show, where selected contestants are rewarded for their expertise in performing aerial manoeuvres above the lip of the wave, will be held each day at Vic Bay with the winners of the U12, U14 and U16 Air Shows joining the top Pro Junior contenders in the final. The top performer pockets the winner-takes-all R2 000 prize-purse.
The U16, U14 and U12 events in the Billabong Junior Series form part of the Pro Surf Tour (PST) sanctioned by Surfing South Africa (SSA), the national controlling body for the sport. The internationally rated Pro Junior events are sanctioned by ASP Africa, the regional office for ASP International.