MOSSEL Bay's Shaun Joubert and Athlone Park's Sarah Baum surfed their way to the top spots in the Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred Men's and Women's divisions respectively. As the defending champion, Joubert made it two in a row by beating Brendon Gibbens (Kommetjie) in the highest scoring heat of the event. Baum claimed a landmark victory over fellow finalist Kirsty Delport (Durban) to take the win in the first ever ASP Africa sanctioned Pro Junior Women's event in the history of South African surfing. The entire day of surfing was run in perfect three to four foot (1 to 1.5 metre) waves at Port Alfred's East Beach, with soft offshore winds and sunny skies all the way to the final.
The Oakley Pro Junior Men's final started with both surfers posting decent rides in the 6 point range (out of a possible 10), until on the 11 minute mark Joubert took off on a medium sized wave, worked a good opening turn and then set up on the inside for an extremely high double grab aerial, landing low on his board and riding it out to a perfect 10 point score from the judges. This put opponent Brendon Gibbens in a combination situation, the Cape Town surfer struggling to answer back. Joubert then extended his lead with an excellent 8.00 awarded after a series of radical and tight off-the-bottom off-the-top combinations, finishing strong by surfing out of a quick and powerful turn as the wave exploded behind him.
Joubert's combined total now sat at 18.00 (out of a possible 20), the highest of the even thus far and hence an incredibly tall ask for Gibbens. With the clock now past the 5 minute mark, the radical natural footer from Cape Town put in a strong last ditch effort to answer back with a very high frontside 'judo' aerial, extending his foot out in mid air before planting it back on the board. He lost control on the landing, however, and had to settle for his 10.90 heat total while an elated Shaun Joubert took the win - and the $2,500 first place prize - for the second consecutive year.
"Even though I had Brendon in a combination, I knew that with seven minutes left he could get an 8.00 score and paddle out to get another one," said Joubert after the prize-giving. "He's definitely capable of doing it, but by the time it got down to two or three minutes I knew it was pretty much impossible for him to catch up and I knew it was mine."
Both Gibbens and Joubert have qualified for the Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge final event held at Keramas in Bali in October. This will be Joubert's second appearance, the 18 year old having surfed his way to a spectacular third place finish at the 2008 event. The Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge final event offers a $20,000 first place prize, the largest winner's cheque of any Pro Junior event worldwide.
"Obviously the job was pretty much done when I made the final because I really just wanted to make it to Bali again," added Joubert about his return to the final event. "The first place is just a bonus! I don't want to make any big calls about myself in Bali because there are so many amazing surfers and it could go your way or theirs, so obviously I'm just hoping it goes my way and I get a good result"
"I did badly in this event last year so I really wanted to get a good result and I'm just glad to make the final," said runner-up Gibbens on his prospects of going to Bali. "I saw video footage of what went down in Keramas last year and it looks like an amazing event so I can't wait - I'm really happy to have made it! I've never really had any international exposure so it's a big personal achievement for me to finally get an opportunity to surf overseas."
The Pro Junior Women's final was likewise a scintillating affair. Sarah Baum took an early lead over opponent Kirsty Delport, holding on to the first place spot throughout the 30 minute heat. In the final minutes the young goofyfooter from Athlone Park took off on a very clean ride, turning hard on the first section to throw a massive fan of spray high into the air. Baum then surfed her way to the inside section where she laid her board on the rail with a powerful turn which saw her sliding the tail out at the end of it for a massive 9.25, a near perfect score and the highest of Pro Junior Women's division. Delport's requirement then jumped up to a very steep 17.01, but she could not muster more than an 11.10 total by the heat's end.
Baum then took off with two minutes to go, a late take off which she banked hard off the top and threw massive spray, carved her way onto the inside, did a big vertical off the lip before launching her tail into a backhand aerial. The goofyfooter just missed landing the air, but her efforts on the wave were enough for her to score an outstanding 8.5 for a huge 17.75 heat total, the highest of the entire Oakley Pro Junior Womens' division.
"There is so much prize money and this win is going to help me so much in my career," said the 15 year old after her heat. "Kirsty Delport is such an amazing surfer and I knew I couldn't underestimate her, so I'm just very, very happy with this result. It's good experience surfing local events again as this is actually my first contest in South Africa this year, so I'm really stoked to come out of it with a win."
Baum's first place for the Pro Junior Women's took home $1000 and 1000 ratings points, with second placed Delport taking home $500 and 850 ratings points. The Oakley Pro Junior Women's division is the first of two counting events to decide which female surfer will represent South Africa at the ASP World Junior Championships at North Narrabeen at the end of the year.
The Red Bull Air Show finals went off in fine form, the perfect glassy conditions making for a multitude of good ramping sections to allow the ten finalists to launch high into the air. It was Hayden MacNicoll who took the win thanks to a cleanly executed air-reverse, which he landed on the same wave as pulling a stylish 180 degree aerial rotation. Second place was St Francis Bay's Dale Staples who took home R2000 for landing a smooth frontside aerial.
The Oakley Pro Junior Port Alfred was run concurrently with the North American event at the famed peaks of Lower Trestles in California, which was held 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.
Both the Junior Men's Grade 2 and the Junior Women's Grade 1 events are internationally rated and sanctioned by ASP Africa, and that further information is available at www.aspafrica.com, including profiles on all the competitors.