BURLEIGH HEADS, Queensland/Australia (Saturday, 21 January, 2012) – The opening day of the Billabong World Junior Championships Gold Coast was treated to 2 – 3 foot (1.5 meter) surf rolling through the Burleigh Heads rock break. Competitors were reviling in the super clean conditions that offered a mix of long walls, ramps for airs and even a couple of tube sections.
Connor Coffin (California, USA) opened the day with a solid heat win, showing the rest of the competitors the way the section of Burleigh known as ‘rockies’ should be surfed with his rail carves and snaps timed to perfection.
“It’s really, really fun out there!” Coffin said. “I’ve never seen it break right along the rocks so clean and perfect like this before. Rincon is just like this, it’s exactly like a shoulder high day at home, so I felt super comfortable out there. Right points are my favourite waves to surf – besides barrels, so I was loving it.”
Matt Lewis-Hewitt (New Zealand) only got a last minute call up into the Billabong World Junior Championships after the equal number 1 seed, Davey Cathels (NSW/AUS) had to withdraw due to an ankle injury. Lewis-Hewitt didn’t waste the opportunity, he went out and launched some big manoeuvres and caused a major upset by defeating Caio Ibelli (Brazil), sending the current ASP World Junior ratings leader into Round 2, while Lewis-Hewitt advanced directly into Round 3.
“I was sitting on the inside waiting for them to read out the scores, I was pretty nervous,” Lewis-Hewitt said. “Then they announced that I’d won, it felt great. Having a tough first heat and coming away with the win is a big confidence booster. Being the only Kiwi in the main event and having a few of the boys over here giving me support feels awesome! I love surfing at Burleigh, I’ve surfed a few events here before and I love going right and taking to the air.”
Filipe Toledo (Brazil) turned heads in his opening round encounter, the young Brazilian who’s currently 7th on the ASP World Junior ratings mixed massive fin blasts with huge aerials to notch a huge heat total of 15.84 (out of a possible 20).
“I’ve been training hard at home in Brazil, so I’ve come over here feeling relaxed,” Toledo said. “The wave here is so good, I’ve never surfed at Burleigh before and I love it. I’m glad to have won the heat because my surfboards never arrived from Brazil so I had to surf on a brand new DMS board, and it went great.”
Jack Robinson (Margaret River, WA/AUS), the youngest surfer in the Men’s draw at a mere 14-years-old had the big crowd that lined Burleigh Point on their feet with his last minute heroics. Robinson was sitting in 3rd position with 45 seconds on the clock when he took off on a nice looking wave, did a couple of turns then launched into an alley oop aerial, scoring an 8.60 (out of a possible 10) and jumped into 1st position.
“I was feeling confident that I could get the score, I just knew I had to sit down the line on and catch a little runner,” Robinson said. “I practice my airs a bit and it came in handy today. On that wave I knew this nice section was coming, so I did a check turn and then the air and landed, it felt pretty good.”
Jack Freestone (Currumbin, QLD/AUS), reigning ASP World Junior Champion was on point for his first heat of the new year. Freestone scored an 8.00 and a 7.57 (out of a possible 10), to easily take the heat and progress to Round 3.
“It feels so good to do an event where I get to wake up in my own bed, we’re constantly on the road so to be at home and surf my local break is amazing,” Freestone said. “I’m feeling pretty bad for Davey (Cathels) missing out on this event, we’re good friends and he was in the ratings lead and hurt his ankle so he’s got to be devastated. I’m not really thinking about World Titles, I’m just focusing on winning the event and surfing my best.”
Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) did the South African contingent proud by finding some decent scoring rides in the tricky, wind affected afternoon conditions. De Vries defeated brazilian Lucas Silveira (BRA) and fellow South African Dylan Lightfoot (ZAF) who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
“It’s so important to win that 1st Round heat because you get to skip Round 2,” De Vries said. “This pointbreak is quite different to others, so I’m stoked that my board was feeling good in that heat, and now I’ll have even more time to figure out what boards and fins work best out here. It also gives me more time to get over the jet lag, I’m still waking up at 3am every morning.”
Jake Halstead (HAW) notched the second highest heat total of the day, 16.17 (out of a possible 20), benefitting from a last minute swap to a board more suited to the low tide.
“Being in heat 13 I got to watch pretty much every heat today and see how the conditions were changing,” Halstead said. “I just went out and tried to have fun, that’s what I always try to do. I was going to ride a polyurethane board, but changed to an epoxy, it linked through the sections a lot easier, so it was a good decision on that one.”
A call will be made at 7:30am tomorrow for a possible 8am start. The Billabong World Junior Championships Gold Coast will be webcast live via www.billabongpro.com
Photo: Jack Robinson (Margaret River, WA/AUS), the youngest surfer in the Men’s draw. Pic ASP/Dunbar.