2009 ISA World Juniors 

The world's best junior surfers hit the water today for the first round of competition at the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships. Unveiling the future of surfing to a full crowd on the beach, some of the most talented Under 18 and Under 16 Boys unleashed their full repertoire of maneuvers on the surf at Playa de las FAE in Salinas, Ecuador.

“We are pleased with the surf today, said ISA President Fernando Aguerre “The point was going off today, with some surfers getting at least 300 meters of open face on their waves. Even I got a few waves with a sunset session after the event.”

Running on double banks (two contest areas) event organizers were able to hold 24 heats of Under 18 Boys and 24 heats of Under 16 Boys. Past ISA Junior event champions Australia, Brazil and Hawaii were in stellar form, posting some of the highest scores of the day. Quiksilver Young Gun of Australia Garrett Parkes threw down a solid combined heat score of 16.50 points (out of 20) followed closely behind by Brazil's Ian Gouveia, son of former WCT Fabio Gouveia, who secured a 15.50.

But as the horn blew on the last heat of the day, it was clearly the French, often an underestimated threat, who showed that they are a force to be reckoned with. Starting off in the morning in less than an hour into the competition, Dimitri Ouvre came out of the gates firing with a 9.0 and an 8.73 for the highest combined score of the day. The rest of the French team fared well in the Under 18 division with all three of today's competing team members taking the top spot in their heats.

“The heat was fun, I love surfing good waves like this,” said Dimitri Ouvre. “I just focused on getting the best waves and tried to surf conservative. I think it is good to start a contest this way, I just want to focus on my own surfing and get to a final who knows maybe even win the Worlds.”

With fresh energy, new uniforms, tremendous talent and a really close team, USA dominated today, taking first place in all of their heats for both Under 18 and Under 16. USA team member Nat Young will take to the water tomorrow morning to close out Round One of Under 18 Boys.

All of the competitors showed tremendous heart and passion today giving it their all to avoid the repercharge rounds. There were some really close heats – most notably heat five's match-up between Brazilian, Ecuadorian and Chilean surfers. Brazil's Felipe Braz took an early lead with a 5.0 with Ecuador's David Villaroel answering back with a 4.77. At the end of the heat, Braz and Villaroel were tied at 8.87 with the win being given to Braz for having a higher single-wave score. Chile's Diego Maria finished third with an 8.40.

Another close race ensued between Canada and Costa Rica in heat 14, with both surfers fighting tooth and nail to avoid the repercharge rounds. In the end, Canada's Janek Peladeau took second to Medi Veminardi of France, while Costa Rican Maikol Torres finished third.


O'Neill Cold Water Classic

It was a morning of falling stars as a host of surfing’s big names who had made their way to this remote corner of the world for the O’Neill Cold Water Classic Tasmania, had their stay surprisingly cut short. 

American World Tour surfer, CJ Hobgood, big wave charger Mark Mathews, renowned talent, Cory Lopez, and Basque World Tour surfer, Aritz Aranburu were all knocked out of the round of 48 which took place in rough 4 foot seas at Nettles Bay in Marrawah.

If ever there has been a contest that has capitalised on its mobile format – this is it. The fourth day of competition following a lay day provided yet another new competition venue for the surfers on this northwest corner of Tasmania.

“I lingered at Bluff Reef this morning for a while,” said contest director Matt Wilson. “We wanted to give that wave every chance, but it just wasn’t consistent enough. It was a situation where it wasn’t big enough for the reef, but it was almost too big for the other locations.”

“We have six spots to chose from here on the Northwest coast,” said Matt. “There’s Bluff Reef, Bluff Beach, Kelpy’s, Lighthouse, Green’s and Nettle’s. I looked at them all. Nettles was the best of them.”

Although now out of the competition, Sydney surfer and the event’s ambassador, Mark Mathews has been loving his time in Tasmania. “I’ve never been to this part of the state before, so I’ve been loving exploring somewhere new,” he said. “Hopefully after this I’m going to be able to do the whole Cold Water Classic Series.”

Two surfers who managed to continue through to the round of 24 were South African surfing phenomenon Jordy Smith, as well as CJ’s brother Damien Hobgood, both winning their heats in convincing style. 
“I was excited to come here,” said Damien. “I love surfing to be able to go and travel to new places. When we were up on the Goldie people started talking about how we would need a caravan down here – we started thinking what had we got ourselves into? But these people ended up moving out of their house to let us stay,” he said. “The people here are so incredibly friendly. It really makes a place.”


2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards 

The finalists for the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy were announced today following yet another remarkable year of surf.

Following 12 months of enormous swell events from Europe to South Africa to Australia to California and beyond, over 550 entered images have been distilled down to this year's elite nominations.  Video and still images of all the top rides are now available for viewing on the updated event website at BillabongXXL.com.

The winners will be announced on Friday, April 17, 2009 at the ninth-annual invitation-only awards gala at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California before 2,250 surf world VIPs.  The entire night's festivities will be webcast live on the event website and will also be the focus of a one-hour television special airing on the ESPN2 network on the evening of May 29.

The top prize in this Oscars of surfing -- the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award -- carries a $50,000 prize for the surfer with the single most amazing performance on a big wave captured on video.  This year features a diverse array of epic rides, including a pair at Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff -- local surfer James Hollmer-Cross qualified with a thick double-tube ride while Gold Coaster Ryan Hipwood made entry by surviving a massive airborne leap down a heaving stair-step face.

California's Greg Long became a finalist for one of the biggest paddle-in barrels ever seen during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event at Dungeons, off Cape Town South Africa, while Hawaiian hellman Garrett McNamara is up for his backside vanishing act inside the spitting guts of Tahiti's famed Teahupoo break.  And in a new twist to the Ride of the Year category, California's Brian Conley is nominated both for escaping a deep tube in Mexico, and for filming it as well, using a hand-held Point-Of-View camera throughout the ride.

The Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award will likely generate double extra large debate as to which was the tallest face of the year.  Two of the nominees come from Belharra, France and feature Benjamin Sanchis (France) and Axi Muniain (Basque Country, Spain) atop huge faces at the break which has been nominated numerous times before but has yet to win the XXL title.

Another pair of massive contenders come from Western Australia's Cow Bommie with local Damien "Taco" Warr and Sydney surfer Mark Mathews in the right spot at the right time.  The fifth nominee is Grant "Twiggy" Baker of Durban, South Africa for his wild ride down a bumpy, mountainous face at Tafelberg Reef off Cape Town -- a wave which has been widely acknowledged as the biggest ever faced on that continent.  One of the five nominees will receive $15,000, a Honda Aquatrax watercraft and a HSA rescue sled in honor of their accomplishment.

This year, the Monster Paddle division has raised the bar ever higher as top surfers refocus their energies on stroking into bigger and bigger waves without the use of a jet ski assist.  Three rides come from what may be the best day ever at Maverick's -- the legendary California big wave break just south of San Francisco -- with Grant Baker and Californians Nathan Fletcher and Derek Dunfee in contention.  Also in the running is Axi Muniain for one of the first paddle-in rides at big Belharra, and James Taylor of Cape Town for a late, great drop at Dungeons during the day of the Red Bull BWA.  Interestingly, three of the rides feature two surfers on the wave, but according to the XXL rule book, the surfer furthest back gets credit for the feat.  Also of note is the fact that for the first time, two athletes have been nominated in both the Monster Paddle and Billabong XXL Biggest Wave categories: South Africa's Grant Baker and Basque surfer Axi Muniain.  Some $15,000 is at stake for the largest wave caught by arm-power alone.