2008 Oakley Pro Junior champion Shaun Joubert surfed his way to an outstanding 17.70 heat total today, setting the record for both the highest individual wave score and the highest combined heat total of the event thus far. Joubert is one of eight quarterfinalists who were decided by the end of Day 2 of the 2009 Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred. Consistent four foot waves were on offer throughout every heat, with perfect offshore winds in the morning and blustery crosshore conditions by the end of the day.
Talented Mossel Bay surfer Joubert started off incredibly strong in his Round of 16 match-up against St Francis Bay's Dale Staples after a series of radical top to bottom manoeuvres saw him earn an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) in the early minutes of the heat. It was Joubert's next ride, however, that proved the highlight of the day. After opening up his account with a radical tailsliding turn off the top, Joubert worked his way to the inside section where he launched a massive double-grab aerial, landing smoothly as the wave exploded around him. The Oakley team rider disappeared from view for a moment before bursting through the whitewater to an eruption of cheers from the beach, his efforts rewarded with a near perfect 9.70 from the judges.
"I decided to use my priority when I took off on that one and was looking for a section to do something big on," said a stoked Joubert after his win. "I did a couple turns out the back which were not exactly what I was looking for and when I made it onto the inside I saw the right section and went for the double-grab air. I managed to land it and get that 9 .70 so I was stoked!"
"The cross-shore wind had come up but you don't really feel it while surfing on the face," he added, "so thankfully I didn't have to change my approach in that heat. I guess I just wanted to go out there and surf my best. The waves were pumping and it's really just about finding the good ones and doing as much as the wave allows you to do. Thankfully I got those two which made it pretty easy for me to get those high scores!"
His berth in the quarterfinals brings Joubert one step closer to repeating his performance last year when he took the win at the 2008 Oakley Pro Junior held in Durban. Joubert and fellow 2008 finalist Nick Godfrey (Cape St Francis) earned their places in the prestigious Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge final event at Keramas in Bali, with Joubert surfing his way to an impressive third place finish overall.
"I pretty much only enter a contest to win or in this case at least make the final," he said when asked about the prospect of returning to Keramas this year, "as either way I'd be going to Bali. Making the final event is the goal I'm hoping to achieve here, so it's definitely on my mind."
Having obtained the total of 17.70 on his opening two rides, Joubert left fellow competitor Dale Staples in a combination situation for the remainder of the 25 minute match-up. Staples' opening ride of a 6.75 proved to be his highest of the heat, which he backed up with a 6.15 for a combined score of 12.90, almost five points shy of Joubert's total.
Cape Town surfer Brendon Gibbens was likewise in scintillating form in his heat against fellow Capetonian and Day 1 standout Matt Bromley. The radical natural footer posted an excellent 9.50 after unleashing a series of fins-free blasts across the length of the East Beach lineup, showing the kind of progressive surfing that has seen him heralded as South Africa's answer to Dane Reynolds. Gibbens' earlier ride of a 6.90 saw him amass a total of 16.40, leaving Bromley in need of a 9.31 by the end of the heat.
Bromley had to settle for equal 9th place while Gibbens has advanced to tomorrow's quarterfinals where he will meet up with Warner Beach surfer Klee Strachan. Strachan, the reigning ASP Africa Junior Champion and top seed for the 2009 Oakley Pro Junior, ousted last year's runner up Nick Godfrey by a mere one tenth of a point in one of the closest heats of the event. After a see-sawing of first position spots exchanged between the two, it was Strachan's final score of a 7.75 that saw him advance with a total of 14.75 to Godfrey's 14.65.
Other star performers throughout the day were Davey Brand (Cape Town) and Casey Grant (Scottburgh) who both managed excellent 8-point rides in their respective heats, while Thomas Woods continued the fine form he has shown throughout the event. Woods, originally from South Africa but now based on the Gold Coast of Australia, ousted older brother James to progress into the quarterfinals where he will face Shaun Joubert tomorrow.
The Oakley Pro Junior Women's semi-finalists were decided today with Sarah Baum in top form, posting an excellent 8.00 ride - the best of the event thus far. The youngster from Athlone Park in Kwa-Zulu Natal looked both comfortable and confident surfing on her backhand in the long, running right-handers on offer, leaving Laurie McGregor (East London) needing a combination of scores to take the lead.
Baum tore apart her third wave with radical off the top turns and powerful carves before landing an incredible tail-dropping floater on the inside, scoring the 8-pointer which she then backed up with a 6.25 later in the heat.
"I was just going for broke out there because my first two waves weren't so good," said Baum after her heat. "I kept on falling because I was a bit nervous going into the heat, but then I caught one of the biggest sets and just stuck to the criteria, surfing top to bottom and that got me the 8-point ride, so I'm stoked!"
Competing in only her second contest of the year, Baum is looking a strong favourite to take the title tomorrow. A win would see her crowned as the champion of the first ever ASP Africa sanctioned Pro Junior Women's event in the history of South African surfing. "The last event I surfed was the ISA World Games in Ecuador," said the 15 year old, "so I haven't surfed a contest in a while. That was also actually the first event I surfed this year. The Oakley Pro Junior is one of the biggest events of the year for girls especially, because there are hardly any girl's events on the calendar. I just want to do well in this event, because winning earns $1,000 and that's a lot of money, so thanks to Oakley for putting so much into girl's surfing!"
Also advancing to tomorrow's semifinals were Kirsty Delport (Durban), Heidi Palmboom (Bluff) and Tanika Hoffman (Cape Town). Delport surfed brilliantly in her heat against goofy-footer Chantelle Rautenbach (Melkbos) to post two scores in the 7-point range for the highest combined heat total of 14.50. It was Hoffman who put on the most nailbiting show, however, her last minute score of a 6.45 just ousting Port Elizabeth's Faye Zoetmulder thanks to a very narrow total points lead of 10.20 to Zoetmulder's 10.00.
Two semi-final heats of the Red Bull Air Show were also run during the day's competition, with standout performances from Beyrick de Vries (Umhlanga), Matt Bromley (Cape Town) and Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay). The field of ten finalists has now been decided, with the Red Bull Air Show final scheduled to run before the Pro Junior Women's and Pro Junior Men's finals tomorrow afternoon. Red Bull have put up a healthy R5000 for whoever can successfully complete the most innovative and radical aerial manoeuvre in the heat.
Contestants and officials will reconvene at 7am tomorrow for a 7:15 start, the extra hour intended to take advantage of the lower tide and predicted offshore winds in the morning. The Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred will run to conclusion tomorrow, the third and final day of competition.
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.