The 2009 Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge hits Port Alfred this weekend kicking off on Friday 1 May with the Grade 2 ASP Junior Men's and Grade 1 ASP Junior Women's divisions. The Junior Men's division now has 38 confirmed entrants and promises to showcase the peak level of high performance surfing as the country's best descend upon the epic right handers of Port Alfred's East Beach.
The Junior Men's seed list boasts the likes of defending champion Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay) and Natal standouts Beyrick de Vries and Klee Strachan, with visiting Australian brothers Thomas and James Woods adding an international element to the heats.
Oakley team rider Chad du Toit (Durban) will also be one to watch, the radical natural footer currently on a high after a strong showing in both the local junior circuit and high profile World Qualifying Series events.
"Doing well against the older and more experienced guys on the 'QS helps my confidence levels and has made me more amped and confident going into the Oakley contest," said 18 year old du Toit. "I'll probably arrive a few days earlier to get used to the sand bank at East Beach, have some time to get a feel for my boards and get back into contest mode. I'll be trying to just get through every heat and hopefully end up in the final and go to Bali!"
"I love doing airs and hopefully I can nail a big one and get an extra R5000," he added, excited about the prospect of competing in the Red Bull Air Show. "I think everyone is pretty stoked about that, especially the natural footers, because Port Alfred is a great wave for doing airs on your frontside."
Local Port Alfred surfer and Border trials winner Lungani Memani has been awarded the coveted event wildcard, seeing him seeded directly into the second round of competition.
"Getting this wildcard has definitely boosted my confidence," said the 19 year old Oakley team rider, "and will help me to relax a bit by not having to worry about the first round. There are a lot of good surfers in the event and many of those guys have been ripping for sure, but it's not going to bother me. I feel good at East Beach, and I'm not really worried about coming up against anyone in a heat. I don't think about who I'm surfing against, as it's really just going to be me against the waves."
Word of the Port Alfred event has also reached ASP World Tour surfers David Weare (Durban) and Tom Whitaker (Australia). "If you are looking for a wave that offers everything from perfect tube rides to big airs," said Weare, "Port Alfred is the spot. I love the place!"
"Port Alfred is an amazing wave," agreed Whitaker, "and I can't wait to see the grommets rip it up!"
The night of Thursday 30 April will see the Oakley Pro Junior Opening Function at the Port Alfred Skiboat club attended by competitors, family and officials alike. The Opening Function will feature a screening of the highlights from the 2008 Grand Final in Bali with Oakley Pro Junior commentator Gigs Cilliers giving his first-hand account of the event. Head judge Cyril Nel is scheduled to address the competitors on the specifics of the judging criteria, with ASP World Tour campaigner Greg Emslie offering advice and sharing his wealth of knowledge garnered from many years competing on surfing's greatest stage.
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.