While the pros get a reprieve until the Championship Tour and Qualifying Series start up once again, the Junior Tour is still in the process of crowning a final season champion. Down under in Australia, 36 of the best juniors in the world are carving up the tricky beach break of Kiama, New South Wales at the World Junior Championship.
Of that crew, Oahu’s Finn McGill is one of five Hawaii groms competing against the rest of the globe’s up and comers. McGill is riding a hot streak and is one of the more recognizable juniors after his recent North Shore success this winter. He made the final at the HIC Pro and then earned entry into the Billabong Pipe Masters through a victory at the Men’s Pipe Invitiational.
That success didn’t totally translate into round one in Kiama, which really could not be any more different than proper Pipeline. McGill was just barely outpointed by South Africa’s Jordy Maree, 11.76 to 11.43, to take second place in their opening non-elimination heat.
The World Junior Championship follows a CT format, so the first round was all three-man heats. Each winner jumps directly into round three, while the rest of the field faces elimination head-to-head matchups in round two.
Hawaii’s only round one winner was Cody Young, who made a pair of junior finals earlier this season at Turtle Bay and Pipeline. Young also helped Hawaii to a bronze medal at last year’s ISA World Junior Championships by reaching the Under 18 Boys semifinals. He gets the bump into round three and will need to win just one head-to-head heat to be into the final 12.
Tuesday’s opening heat featured two of Hawaii’s members, but neither Noa Mizuno nor Logan Bediamol were able to pick up the win, which was taken by Brazil’s Weslley Dantas. Dantas is the younger brother of CT competitor Wiggolly Dantas and he put up the third-best total of round one with a 13.00 combined score. Despite that result, Mizuno is still a formidable contender in this event and could be very dangerous if he begins to feel comfortable at this beach break.
Rounding out the crew was Christopher Bluthardt, who will have to survive a second-round heat. He, McGill, Mizuno and Bediamol will all be looking to advance with wins in their next appearances.
The women’s contest started up with its first round, though results were unavailable as of press time. The smaller 18-wahine field has two Hawaii heavyweights in Brisa Hennessy and Mahina Maeda. It wouldn’t be a shock to see one or both of them among the final few competitors.
Hawaii’s third wahine is trying to reach the levels Hennessy and Maeda have achieved, so this would be a fantastic place for Zoe McDougall to shine on a big stage. She had a victory last year at Ballito in South Africa and seems to be heading towards a promising career.
The pros are enjoying their time off, but these juniors are putting in the overtime hours to hopefully prepare them for that ultimate goal. There are a number of names with which to become familiar, so these World Junior Championships should get 2017 off and running.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.