The opening rounds of the Billabong Junior Series were completed in inconsistent but clean one metre waves fanned by strengthening offshore winds at Seal Point in Cape St Francis on Friday.
The fourth and final event in the 20th annual edition of the world’s longest running surf series for surfers 18-and-under will crown event and series champions in seven divisions, as well as the men’s and women’s WSL Africa junior champions and also determine who will represent the region at the WSL World Junior Championships in Australia In January.
Current Billabong Junior Series and WSL Africa junior rankings leader Jake Elkington (Kommetjie) had to play catch-up in the first heat of the U18 boys heat when Bryce du Preez (East London) opened his account with a 6.50 and then added a 4.60. But Elkington showed the form that has earned him three event victories already this year to secure second place and advanced to Round 2 alongside du Preez.
There was a major upset in Heat 3 of the U18 boys when Angelo Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) was eliminated by Saxton Randall (Durban) and 14 year-old Mitch du Preez (East London).
Faulkner had his sights set on victory at Seal Point, which would have seen him clinch a place in the WSL Africa squad for the World Junior Champs, but the J-Bay resident could only muster 10.17 points and was ousted when he placed third in the heat.
The U18 girls’ heats also produced an upset when Daniella Finlayson (Jeffreys Bay) grabbed victory ahead of second seed Taghiti Gericke (Wilderness). But order was restored when top seed Tayla de Coning (East London), Kai Woolf (Jeffreys Bay) and Summer Sutton (Kommetjie) comfortably won their heats and advanced to Round 2.
As the offshore wind strengthened, the U16 division delivered excellent competitive performances with the likes of Faulkner, Ryan Lightfoot (Jeffreys Bay), Aya Gericke (Wilderness) and newcomer George Pittar claiming heat wins in boys, while Woolf, Sutton and Gabi Lailvaux (Westbrook) stamped their authority in the girls heats.
The highly competitive U14 boy’s category lived up to its billing with East Londoners Mitch du Preez and Daniel Emslie joined by Durbanites Luke Thompson and James Ribbink as heat winners after hard fought battles.
Meanwhile the U12 boys, the youngest division in the series, continue to prove that the future of South African surfing is in good shape with series champion elect Kyra Bennie (Vredehoek) and fourth seed Kai Hall (Durban) emerging triumphant from their opening encounters along with newcomers Ryan Kainalo and Joel Dace.
The U14 girls were the only category not to compete on Friday and they will be first up when the event gets underway today in what is expected by slightly bigger surf and light winds for the semi-finals of all divisions.
The Billabong Junior Series presented by All Aboard Travel runs until Sunday when all the event and series champions will crowned at the awards ceremony on the beach.
The U18 boys’ and girls’ series champions have the added incentive of winning a coveted trip to the tropical surfing paradise of Bali thanks to All Aboard Travel, while the exciting VonZipper Airshow rewards the surfer landing the best aerial manoeuvre with a winner-takes-all R2,000 prize purse.