Matt Banting 

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.

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Lewis St John conquers the 2009 Makka Surf Pro 

Barbadians Lewis St John and Chelsea Tuach along with local boy Shane Simmonds shared the championship honors at the 2009 SUZUKI MAKKA PRO surf contest which went off without hitch at the “Makka” surfing beach in Southaven, Yallahs St Thomas on the 4th and 5th of July in 4’-5’ waves. The event which featured top Caribbean pro surfers attracted 16 pro men, 5 pro women and 12 junior pro surfers along with thousands of patrons to the south coast’s premiere surf contest venue.

The event, now in its third year, has taken on the title of biggest surfing contest in the English speaking Caribbean and attracted a diverse demographic of spectators from babes in arms to great grandmothers from all sectors of the society.

There was much excitement as Jamaica’s top surfers matched up against the best from Barbados and showed that the Jamaicans are a force to be reckoned with. JSA President Billy Wilmot provided lively commentary throughout the day with help from CSN Director Nic Donawah. There were loud cheers and whistles from the crowd on the beach each time a surfer executed an impressive maneuver and by the end of the day the patrons had become expert surf judges themselves.

Jamaica’s top performers this year were Shane Simmonds who successfully defended his junior title while nabbing a second place in the open men division. Other top finishers in the open men included last years runner up in the men’s open Inilek Wilmot, Luke Williams, Ackeam Phillips, Icah Wilmot and Michael Panton who all finished in the money. In the women’s division Imani Wilmot and Jessica Williams made it to the money round with Eneson Lightbourn finishing in the prizes in the pro juniors.

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Kelly Slater will try an important win in Jeffreys Bay 

Hot off the heals of the ASP Dream Tour South American leg, the world’s best surfers are readying themselves for the upcoming Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, held at the iconic South African pointbreak from July 9 – 19, 2009.

Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will host the ASP Top 45 as the battle for pride, points and the freshly intensified ASP World Title race.

Kelly Slater (USA), 37, reigning nine-time ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 9, opened his 2009 season with three, uncharacteristic 17th place finishes before smashing his way to a 41st career victory in Brazil last week. Formerly lacking the trademark intensity and drive that the Floridian is renowned for, Slater admits to a heightened focus after his Brazilian triumph, adding a dynamic new angle to this year’s ASP World Title race.

“Last week’s win just highlighted the importance of making more of a plan when I hit the water instead of leaving it to chance,” Slater said. “I had a plan in Brazil for the first time this year and it worked. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to help me get my stuff together and it’s about time I had a plan in heats so I don’t take any of that for granted. Sometimes things don’t go your way. I probably wouldn’t be very interested if I had started out super strong anyhow, and now it’s just a more difficult challenge to get things going. It kind of wakes you up.”

If any event on tour has the potential to offer Slater a positive follow-up to last week’s win, it’s the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay. Throughout the event’s storied history, Slater has secured a record four victories (1996, 2003, 2005, 2008) and boasts some staggeringly high heat averages in recent years.

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