THE first day of the Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred was held in excellent conditions for most of the day before the forecasted 4.5 metres swell forced the event to be put on hold during the Pro Junior Men's Round of 32. The predicted swell came in around mid day, making for exceptionally tricky conditions with wide sets and walls of whitewater playing havoc with the lineup.
Cape Town surfer Matt Bromley was the standout of the Round of 32, attaining the highest scoring wave of the round, a near excellent 7.25 (out of a possible 10) after a series of smooth yet critical manuevres to impress both judges and spectators alike.
"It was a medium sized one, and I chose to surf those because they were better than the bigger waves," said the young Capetonian. "It had a ledge on take off, and then I bottom turned and did a carve which finished with a tailslide, got some speed up again and then did a carve off the lip. At that point I thought the was going to close out but I managed to end off with a floater and get that good score."
Bromley was in fine form throughout the heat, his wave selection proving critical to his win today, but the difficult conditions only allowed the regular-footer to back up his top score with an average 4.40 ride.
"When you got a wave you had to make it count," he explained. "There was such a strong wash in the lineup and if you rode a wave you definitely had to run around the beach and paddle back out next to the pier. The swell started pushing at the start of the Round of 32 when we went out, and there was a bit of a rip going through the break with a lot of water moving making it tricky. A lot of the waves looked good in the beginning but were fading out and you had to really pick out the good ones. That heat really was about getting the right waves."
Coming in second place behind Bromley and also advancing to the Round of 16 was Somerset West surfer Jacob Mellish with a total of 8.50 (out of a possible 20), with Bertie Stuurman (Jeffreys Bay) and Quamani Bam (Port Elizabeth) out in third and fourth place respectively.
Thomas Woods, formerly of South Africa but now based on the Gold Coast in Australia, scored a 7.5 and a 6.80 in the clean right-handers to take the top heat total of the day, his smooth carves and flowing style seeing him earn victory in his Round of 48 heat earlier in the day. Woods had the good fortune of surfing at the peak of the conditions, the good swell and perfect offshore winds combining for great contest conditions.
"We were pretty lucky in that it was right when the waves were at their best," said Woods, who totalled 14.30 out of a possible 20 points. "The guys in the heats before were sitting deep and doing one turn and getting caught behind the whitewater, so I sat a bit wider and managed to get good, running waves."
"I like surfing on my forehand," he added, "and the wave here is a long right - not as long as Snapper Rocks back home but still long enough to fit quite a few moves in. This is the first time I have been back to South Africa since I moved to Australia. I've got some relatives over here and I'm on holiday at the moment. There is a break in between the contests in Australia so I decided to do the WQS in Durban and the Oakley Pro Junior while over here."
Another standout of the morning was Port Elizabeth's Justin Grey, coming a close second behind Woods with a 6.60 and a 6.75 for a total of 13.35. Grey surfed a patient heat, waiting until very late to post his two scoring rides. The powerful natural footer excelled in the perfect conditions and amassed a total of 13.35, a score which would have won him any other heat of day.
Heidi Palmboom (Bluff) was the standout in the Pro Junior Women's Round of 12, the stylish naturalfooter's clean carves and a radical closeout turn earning her a well-deserved 6.25 points for the highest wave score of the round.
"It was the second wave I caught," said Palmboom, "and I did my first carve which felt good and then almost fell on my second carve. I then finished with a closeout turn and was very stoked with how that went. I was watching Kirsty Delport's waves from the back and thought that she was winning, so I'm very happy that I got that score."
Palmboom struggled to secure another high score, with her second counting ride coming in at a low 3.50.
"I wish I got a better backup wave and managed to do more than just a 3.50," she said, "but I'm still happy with the result. I'm in the money round which is great so I am pretty stoked I won that heat! The waves were really good for the start of the heat, but then it started picking up quite fast. It wasn't too big out there but it was definitely growing. Luckily I didn't get any of those big sets on the head - I managed to miss them every time I paddled back out!"
The Pro Junior Women's Round of 12 was comprised of two heats to determine the quarterfinal qualifiers, with Durban surfer Kirsty Delport advancing in second place behind Palmboom. Heat 1 of the Round of 12 was won by Cape Town surfer Tanika Hoffman with Laurie McGregor (East London) progressing in second position.
The first of the Red Bull Air Show semi finals was held just after the Pro Junior Women's Round of 12, the growing swell proving a difficult affair for the ten surfers in the lineup. The big, washy waves did not offer much in the way of launchable sections, with only Chad du Toit (Durban) and Dale Staples (St Francis Bay) able to successfully land their aerial manoeuvres and progress through to the Red Bull Air Show final on Sunday. The second semi final will be held tomorrow to determine the remaining surfers who will compete on Sunday for the R5000 first place prize.
Contestants and officials will reconvene at 8am tomorrow morning for an 8:15 start, with a full day of action on the schedule. The early morning will see the completion of the Pro Junior Men's Round of 32, with the Pro Junior Women's Quarterfinals and Pro Junior Men's Round of 16 to follow.
With a total prize purse of R125,000.00, the Port Alfred event is the third of six stops in a unique international series launched by Oakley in 2008. Attracting the cream of South Africa's top young surfing talents, the event offers not only lucrative winners' cheques and unparalleled respect in the international surfing community, but also the opportunity for the Junior Men's finalists to qualify for the Oakley Pro Junior Grand Final in Bali, Indonesia from October 7-17. The Junior Women's division serves as the first of two counting events to select which female will represent South Africa at the World Pro Junior Championships in Australia.
The Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred is running concurrently with the North American event at the famed peaks of Lower Trestles in California, running from April 28 to May 2. Worldwide, the Oakley Pro Junior series offers a total prize purse of $165,000 with $75,000 on the line at the final event. The $20,000 cheque for winning the Oakley Pro Junior Grand Final in Bali is the largest first-place prize in junior surfing.