Hawaii women shine early at World Junior Championship

One of the 12 remaining wahine will be named World Junior Champion when everything concludes in Kiama, New South Wales, Australia. Three of those 12 hail from Hawaii and all three certainly have as good a shot as any other competitor to walk away with the women’s title.

Round one of the World Junior Championship was a true showcase for Hawaii’s three best juniors. Brisa Hennessy, Mahina Maeda and Zoe McDougall each earned victories in their three-surfer heats to move directly into the third round.

Hennessy made the biggest impression of the day in the very first heat. She jumped out to a quick start and displayed a familiar ease in the lineup. But she actually closed with her best work, filling her ledger on her final two waves. A 7.50 and a 6.50 combined for the round’s top heat total at 14.00. That gave her a comfortable win over both Minami Nonaka and Caroline Marks.

Since earning a spot in the Maui Pro to end the Championship Tour season — and knocking out Johanne Defay in round two of that event — Hennessy is making herself much more of a known commodity. Her future is very bright and it could be approaching sooner than initially thought for the 17-year-old from Kailua.

For Maeda, round one was business as usual. She didn’t have a chance to dazzle as she can, she simply did what she usually does and won her heat. She did so on just a 9.90 total, but she put the pressure on her opponents early.

As Maeda jumps into her round three non-elimination heat, she’ll be taking on Hennessy and Costa Rica’s Leilani McGonagle. With the winner earning a spot in the semifinals, a lot is at stake for this talented trio.

Round one’s final heat featured Hawaii’s final contestant. McDougall is going to be one of the state’s most prominent wahine surfers, but most of her Qualifying Series experience has come at the lower levels. That’s not a shock, being that she’s only 16 years old and a consistent Junior competitor. But her promise is undeniable and she’ll have more and more opportunities to gain experience against the higher caliber competition in the coming seasons.

She showed she knows how to earn a result with a close win on just an 8.90 total. That bested Ariane Ochoa by half a point and moved McDougall into round three. There she’ll take on one of Europe’s best juniors, Teresa Bonvalot, and American Alyssa Spencer.

The women should be back in action today if conditions cooperate. The men got their third round going late Saturday, but results were unavailable as of press time.

Three of Hawaii’s five junior men made it to round three. Cody Young, Finn McGill and Noa Mizuno all had head-to-head elimination heats to reach the final 12 competitors. Unfortunately, round two was the end for Logan Bediamol and Christopher Bluthardt.

Each bracket provides a prestigious title and all six Hawaii competitors still in the mix would have to be considered in the upper echelon of their division. It should be a fun final few days in Kiama and hopefully some hardware could return to Hawaii from Down Under.

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