THE Oakley Pro Junior will see the country's top young surfers descend upon Port Alfred, South Africa from May 1-3, 2009 for the Grade 2 Junior Men's and Grade 1 Junior Women's events. East beach will play host to the hottest surfing action in the country as the famed right-hander comes alive with the nation's best junior surfing talents competing for their share of the R125,000.00 prize purse.
"We have moved the Oakley Pro Junior to Port Alfred as it is a world class wave and the surfers deserve to have the best waves to surf it out to make it into the final event in Bali," said ASP World Tour surfer and Oakley Team Manager Greg Emslie. "When I was a junior surfer we didn't have too many contests aimed solely at younger surfers, so it's great to see a world class event like this as it is crucial for junior surfing. As well as the contest we also have the Red Bull Expression which offers R10,000.00 in prize money for the most radical surfing, so you can be sure the juniors will go big!"
The inaugural girls' division will be the first ever ASP Africa sanctioned Pro Junior Women's event in South Africa, finally giving junior female surfing some of the competitive recognition it deserves. In addition to the massive R10,000.00 on offer to the winner, the Oakley Pro Junior serves as the first of two counting events to select which female will represent South Africa at the World Pro Junior Championships in Australia. As the breeding ground for the likes of young gun hot-shots such as ASP Women's World Tour rookie Sally Fitzgibbons and multiple ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, this event is the ultimate place for x-chromosome surfers to truly test out their surfing artillery on the world stage.
Shaun Joubert, winner of the Oakley Pro Junior event in Durban last year, has confirmed that he will be returning to defend his title, and is thrilled with the change of venue. "I'm super stoked," said the 18 year-old Oakley team rider, "Port Alfred is a sick place and I really enjoy surfing East Beach so it should be good. I'm definitely amped to hold on to the title and make it two in a row. That's definitely the goal, but I'm just going to go out there and give it my best shot and see what happens."
Joubert, who went on to a phenomenal third place finish in the 2008 Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge in Bali, will face tough competition from the likes of last year's runner up Nick Godfrey (Cape St Francis), Cape Town junior sensation Matt Bromley and the talented Natal duo of Klee Strachan (Winkelspruit) and Chad du Toit (Durban).
After losing to Joubert in the 2008 quarterfinals, fellow Oakley team rider Chad du Toit is enthusiastic to claim the 2009 Oakley Pro Junior title for himself, as well as take home the incredible R25,000.00 winner's cheque. "Port Alfred is a wave that everybody loves," said the talented natural-footer. "It's got a lot of push which allows for high performance surfing so I am really looking forward to the event. It's going to be very important to make the final in Port Alfred so that I can get into the final Oakley Pro Junior in Bali as that is the most prestigious event and the biggest prize purse in world junior surfing!"
Port Alfred local Lungani Memani, fresh off a victory at the Border Surfing Trials, is determined to carry through his winning form into this event. "I'm stoked because I've always wanted to have one of those big contests here," said the Oakley team rider. "East Beach is one of the best waves in South Africa. I surf with Nick Godfrey, Shaun Joubert and the rest of the junior guys all the time and hopefully I'll be able to get a good result because it's my home break and I know the wave better."
Memani has been focusing on his fitness and fine-tuning his quiver of boards to best prepare him for the 2009 contest season. "I've been training - if I'm not surfing I'm running, doing push-ups and all that. Last year I wasn't fit enough and wasn't training enough, and I also didn't connect with my boards too well. I'm stoked because I've got a good bunch of boards and I'm feeling in shape right now."
Eastern Cape surf star and South African Masters division runner-up Warwick Heny, himself a member of the South African Junior team in 1992, was very excited about watching South Africa's best young surfers at his home break. "Hopefully the local talent will be able to perform well," said Heny "as this event is a good opportunity for them to compete against the best junior surfers in the country. The Port Alfred youngsters don't often get to see the quality of surfing that we can expect from the Oakley Pro Junior, so it should be a great event for everyone involved."
"We must say thanks to Fanie Fouche, Environmental Officer at the Ndlambe Municipality who was very helpful in seeing this event come together," added Heny, "and we hope that this event will realize their vision of boosting tourism and help put Port Alfred on the map."
On top of the lucrative winner's cheque, the two Junior Men's finalists are granted entry into the prestigious 2009 Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge held in Bali from 7-17 October. "The final event in Bali is what the surfers are fighting for," said Greg Emslie. "The surfer who wins there is regarded as the next big thing in the surfing world, so the juniors will be pushing the limits in Port Alfred to make sure they make it into top two spots."
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 Global Challenge in Bali is the biggest first-place prize in junior surfing.