Many of the country’s top-ranked junior surfers tumbled out of contention on Wednesday’s Day 2 of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel as the inconsistent, peaky head-high waves at Willard Beach in Ballito played havoc with their heat strategies, leading to major upsets.
A total of six of the top eight WSL Africa ranked junior men were eliminated from the event on Wednesday, while only one of the top 10 junior women reached the last four.
Both defending event champions, Adin Masencamp (Strand) and Zoe McDougall of Hawaii, squeaked through to the final day of competition after finishing second in their respective quarter-final heats on Wednesday. And they face the same opponents who relegated them to runner-up berths in the one-on-one format for the semi-finals.
Masencamp produced a great comeback to grab second spot from Luke Malherbe (East London) with a ride that connected all the way to the beach in the dying seconds of their heat. He will be up against red-hot Brazilian Samuel Pupo, who has posted the highest scores in the event so far with his huge range of high-risk aerial manoeuvres.
The other junior men’s semi will see current No 8-ranked Angelo Faulkner (Jeffreys Bay) given the chance to force his way into contention for a spot in the four-man squad to represent the Africa region at the World Surf League (WSL) World Junior Championships in Australia in January, if he can get past former SA U16 champion Ethan Fletcher.
Fletcher eliminated rankings leader and fellow Kommetjie resident Jake Elkington to earn a place in the semis for the first time this year.
‘This break can be difficult and the tide was quite high, so there weren’t a lot of waves coming though. I made one or two mistakes and didn’t get the waves I needed, but I’ve learnt from what happened in that heat and will work on making sure it doesn’t happen again,’ Elkington explained.
‘After three wins I’ll still stay at the top of the rankings after this event and it will be really cool to go to Australia at the end of the year again. Hopefully I can do well in the next Billabong Junior Series event at Seal Point. This one has been unfortunate, but I’m looking forward to Seal’s and a good result there will solidify my rankings lead.’
McDougall has won four events in South Africa since April, but faces a tricky semi-final encounter against rising Durban star S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu, who has been training under coach Jason Ribbink at the High Performance Surfing Academy (HPSA), and also reached the final of the U16 girls.
‘That heat was hectic, my first score was a 0.6 and I was panicking,’ commented Makhubu. ‘But I calmed down and sat where my coaches told me to and then I got the waves. So I’m happy, I’m in the final of the U16’s, which I’m hoping to win, and the semis of the U18 and where I’m hoping to make the final. I’ve been training really hard and I hope it pays off.’
The second semi pits No 16-ranked Australian junior Pacha Luque-Light against unranked Zoe Steyn. The young East Londoner is competing in her first WSL junior women’s event and will also be contesting the U14 semis.
‘My strategy was to get a quick start and then build on my scores, so I’m pretty stoked that worked out for me,’ said Steyn. ‘I’m also into the semis of the U14 event, even though I didn’t surf my best. But I made it through and that’s what counts. I’m looking forward to the next rounds and hopefully it will go as well as today’s heats did.’
The SA Surf Tour events for U16, U14 and U12 boys and girls produced more predictable results, with the top contenders set to battle for titles, prize money and points on the SAST rankings leaderboards on the final day.
Dillen Hendricks and Angelo Faulkner (both Jeffreys Bay), Luke Slijpen (Hout Bay) and Aya Gericke (Wilderness) head into the cut-throat U16 boys semis after confidence-boosting quarter-final heat victories.
Multiple event winner Kayla Nogueira from nearby uMhlanga will take on Tayla de Coning (East London and rising stars S’Nenhlanhla Makhubu (Durban) and Summer Sutton (Kommetjie) in the final of the U16 girls.
The favourites for the hotly-contested U14 boy’s semi-finals include Durbanites Nate Spalding and Luke Thompson and East London’s Daniel Emslie, last year’s U12 winner, and Mitch du Preez.
Zoe Steyn heads the field for the U14 girls, while the U12 event features the future of the country’s surf scene including Kyra Bennie, Kai Hall, Joel Fowles and River Gericke.
Picture of Masencamp courtesy of WSL/Patterson