Bethany Hamilton Wins O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro

POIPU, KAUA’I, Sept. 19, 2005 — A perfect rainbow over the Poipu surfbreak “Centers offered a good omen for the 48 8- to 21-year-old girls who were excited to be part of Rochelle Ballard’s first annual O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro, the first of its kind in Hawai’i. With waves in the 2- to 4-foot range and light, offshore winds, conditions were ideal for the girls to put on an impressive display of their talent. The event was held in conjunction with Rochelle’s fifth annual training camp.

“It was a great experience, said O’ahu surfer Sarah Bridgman, who won the Rell Sunn Inspiration award. “We got to see how contests work. Plus all the girls came together from all the islands—and you get to see your competition.

The Island Girl Junior Pro ran through the afternoon, using an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) format with four-woman, 20-minute heats with the top two surfers advancing. As the tide rose, so did the level of competition.

“The girls were ripping! I share my home with these kids, and I’m proud to know that they will be the future representatives of Hawai’i, said Rochelle Ballard, who inspired O’Neill to sponsor the $5,000 junior pro event with the support of Reef, Nukumoi Surf Co., Kauai Christian Fellowship, and Nalu Underground. A luau lunch was provided by Brennecke’s Beach Grill for all participants and spectators.

“There was a lot of love and aloha here today, which is pretty typical for Kaua’i, contest director Miguel Graham said, describing the vibe at the contest. “The level of competition in the Hawaiian islands is unmatched. The girls are really strong, and we stand behind them all the way.

At noon Kaua’i surfers gathered on the beach for an emotional paddle-out in honor of beloved local surfer Russell Souza. The “gentle giant, as he was known, suffered a heart attack while surfing at “Smoky’s last Wednesday.

The final heat saw an intense battle between top Hawai’i amateurs Leilani Gryde, Bethany Hamilton, Alana Mock, and Leila Hurst. The surfers took advantage of both the lefts and rights at “Corners, charging aggressively despite the shallow reef below. In the end, Bethany Hamilton delivered the high-scoring, winning performance with several late bomb drops that she followed with smooth and precise turns off the top and bottom.

“The waves were great for the contest, and I felt lucky to be out there, said the 15-year-old Kaua’i surfer, who went home with a $1,500 first prize check. In a close second was Kaua’i’s Leila Hurst, followed by O’ahu’s Alana Mock in third and Big Island’s Leilani Gryde in fourth.

Karin Moran, O’Neill’s Juniors’ Marketing Manager, said O’Neill was pleased to provide an opportunity for the girls to step up to the next level. “Watching these girls surf, there’s no question that professional surfing is in their future. O’Neill recognizes that they’re the next torch-bearers, and we’re happy to help them be prepared.

Summing up the general sentiment shared by all the girls, Bethany added, “I was super-stoked. I really had lots of fun here.

O’Neill is the world’s original surf brand. The family-owned and operated company distributes its products to 85 countries, including more than 2,000 specialty wetsuit and clothing retailers in the U.S. Consumer information is available at oneill.com.

O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro Results:

1) Bethany Hamilton ($1,500)
2) Leila Hurst ($800)
3) Alana Mock ($500)
4) Leilani Gryde ($300)
5) Alana Blanchard and Adrianna Mendival ($250)
7) Taira Barron and Kristen Steiner ($200)
9) Lani Hunter, Jackie Brady, Erika Steiner, Ashley Hunter ($150)
13) Kalee Krebs, Camille Brady, Coco Ho, Moana Wietecha ($100)