While there are several questions lingering about the future size, scope and significance of the ASP World Tour there is one story that’s getting much better for pro surfing’s governing body, and that’s the Pro Junior Series. Over the past couple of years the popularity of Pro Junior events has risen dramatically, and for good reason. Sponsors have finally realized that there’s a strong desire to know who really is the best up and coming talent. For years, many of these highly-touted surfers often times disappear from the public eye while trying to slug it out on the WQS. But the Pro Junior circuit puts a bright spotlight on the best surfers who’re 20 and under, giving them much more momentum as they make the leap to the next level.
Dusty Payne used his win at last year’s Oakley Global Challenge in Bali to kick start his serious run at the Triple Crown in Hawaii a few months later. Chances are Bali could turn into a Dream Tour spot for the new World Pro Junior Tour…Let’s hope so.
In the past, the Pro Junior title was decided by a single event, the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, an event Joel Parkinson considers “a major stepping stone to the highest levels of surfing…It started me on my career path, and if you look at the guys who have won it, from Andy to Jordy to Adriano, they’ve all made major impacts on professional surfing.”
As proposed, Billabong will still own the final event of the three-event tour. Their event in Australia would likely decide the World Junior Champion. The best news for the Pro Juniors is the prize purses will be increased to $75,000 for the men and $20,000 for the women in 2010. They’re also encouraging sponsors to hold events in prime wave locations.
Of course, the biggest benefit of winning the ASP World Junior Tour is the giant shot in the arm it gives the Junior Champ out on the WQS, the next step up the ladder. The World Junior Champion will get a wildcard slot into the last-seeded round of any WQS event he decides to enter. Meanwhile, the Men’s runner up and Women’s ASP World Junior Champion will be seeded into the second-to-last round at any event they chose to compete in. Junior surfers qualify to compete on the 48 roster World Junior Tour by qualifying through their own regional Pro Junior Series.
California’s Dillon Perillo, who’s leading this year’s North American Pro Junior Series, will be one surfer hoping to use the new ASP Pro Junior Tour as a stepping stone up the big leagues.
Australia’s Owen Wright, who has won all four of the Pro Junior contests he’s entered Down Under, will be a huge threat at this year’s Billabong World Junior Championships. Wright is one junior who doesn’t need much help out on the WQS though…since he’s pretty much winning the thing.