North Narrabeen, Sydney will be the focus of the surfing world over the New Year with forty-eight of the worlds top U/20 surfers contesting the USD45,000 Billabong World Junior Championships from January 1st 2005. Six qualifying surfers from the seven ASP world regions of Nth America, Europe, Asia, Hawaii, South Africa, South America, host region Australasia along with wildcards will all vie for the prestigious 2004 ASP World Junior Title.
Defending Billabong World Junior Champion Adriano De Souza added his name to an honor roll that includes reigning three-times world champion Andy Irons (1998), current world no.2 Joel Parkinson (1999 & ’01) and fellow Brazilian Pedro Henrique (2000)in January 2004. The 17-year-old, from San Paulo, showed no nerves against his more experienced opponents when he became the youngest ever ASP world champion at 16 toppling the sports best juniors including runner-up Shaun Cansdell (Mullaway, Aus). De Souza has continued to turn heads with some big results over the past 12 months and will be out to equal Parkinson’s duel world junior title record when he competes at Narrabeen in 2005.
The Billabong World Junior Title projects a surfer into the international surfing limelight and is regarded as the most prestigious junior title in the world. 2005 World Championship Tour (WCT) runner up Parkinson rates his two world junior title wins as an important stepping stone in his brilliant professional career.
“Winning two for me was pretty massive,” said Parkinson. “It’s a high honor to be able to say that I am the best 20 year-old surfer in the world, and I got to say it twice,” said Parkinson. “If you win it, you definitely hold a big name in surfing.”
“Adriano is going to be a pretty fierce one I think, he will definitely be up there as a challenger,” said Parkinson on De Souza. “I think this year the Aussies will over power him though, as long as there is waves there, you give it 3-4 foot Narrabeen and the Goofy footers like Ryan Campbell and even the backsiders, it’s not a bad backside wave at all. As long as its not one foot ally rights, the Aussies will come out firing.”
The Australian Team, although pitted against arguably the best list of international juniors ever assembled, is a hot chance of producing an individual victor and claiming an ASP world title for 2004. The Aussie contingent consists of Leigh Sedley (20, Sunshine Coast) Ben Dunn (18, Old Bar NSW) Ryan Campbell (20, Sunshine Coast) Travis Lynch (20, Newcastle) Clint Kimmins (20, Gold Coast) and Adam Melling (19, Lennox Head).
Sedley, who recently clinched the highly sought 2004 ASP Australasian Junior Series Title, finished 5th in last years world championships after entering as a wildcard with a runner-up placing in the highly contested Von Zipper Trials.
“It’s my last year as a junior and my main goal was to make the team,” said Sedley. “I ended up winning the series and it just gave me a massive confidence boost so now I have really knuckled down for the world juniors and a win would be the perfect way to end my junior career.”
“The international guys like Jordan Smith (Saf) are always tough, and especially Adriano, but Dunny (Ben Dunn) and Clint (Kimmins) are just as good if not better,” Sedley explains of his team mates. “I definitely see the biggest threats coming from within our team because we have the toughest junior series in the world.”
For 1999 world champion and WCT stalwart Mark “Occy” Occhilupo the championships represent a changing of the guard in competitive surfing.
“Its in good hands, the future of Australian surfing, there are so many young Aussies right now who have just come along in leaps and bounds,” said Occy. “I saw the world juniors last year at Narrabeen and the standard was so high.”
“I just think that every next Brazilian that comes out, and there has been so many, just keeps getting better and it just goes to show through Adriano De Souza,” said Occy. “I think he can be beaten and I think that there are Aussie kids that can, it will be exiting and I am looking forward to it all going down with hopefully the main ingredients being some surf.”
The Hawaiians who were a dominating force in 2004 will prove just as strong in the 2005 championships. Highly regarded Kekoa Bacalso heads in a formidable team that features Dustin Cuizon, Hank Gaskell, Raymond Reiche, Gavin Gillettte and Nathan Carroll.
ASP Europe is not to be underestimated featuring some of the sports biggest names in junior surfing with Marlon Lipke, Aritz Aranburu, Hodei Collazo, Michel Bourez, Simon Marchand and Jeremy Flores all competing for the highly prized title. Flores will be no stranger to Narrabeen spending half his year down the road at Newport Beach, Sydney. ASP North America is sending in one of the most experienced sides to be contesting the championships with Eric Taylor, Tommy O’Brien, Alex Parker, Justin Weigand, Sterling Spencer and Darrell Goodrum in their line-up.
South Africa’s Jordan Smith is regarded as one of the sports most talented U/20 competitors and will be competing alongside compatriots Keegan Nel, Brandon Roberts, Shaun Payne, David Richards and Damien Fahrenfort. ASP Asia is represented by Japanese surfers Tajima Teppei, Tanaka Hideyoshi, Tanaka Yuzuru, Ogawa Yukio, Nakamo Masato and Nakumuru Shota some of whom have already caused upsets competing on the tough ASP Australasian circuit. Backing up De Souza for South America are Pablo Paulino, Hizunome Bettero, Jorge Spanner, Diego Santos, Amani Valetin and Jean Da Silva.
Joining Sedley and the Australian team in the main event as Billabong’s sponsor wild card is 19 year-old Gold Coast surfer Luke Dorrington. Dorrington who finished well down on the ASP Junior Ratings in 2004 has struggled to prove competitively why he is regarded as the next succession of Coolangatta wonder kids, following in the footsteps of Joel Parkinson, Dean Morrison and Mick Fanning.
Eight Australians along with eight internationals will contest the Von Zipper Trials for the remaining wildcards into the championships. The field is stacked with Blake Thornton (Little Bay, NSW), Joel Bonning (Caringbah, NSW), Yadin Nicol (Cowramup, W.A.), James Wood (Lennox Heads, NSW), Joe Haddon (Forster, NSW), Paul Fisher (Broadbeach, Qld), Rhys Bombaci (Kiama Downs, NSW) and Mitchell Coleborn (Maroochydore, Qld) included in the Aussie contingent.
Current world #5 Luke Egan (Gold Coast, Aus) will once again assume the mantle of Contest Director bringing his enormous experience to the tournament.
The Billabong World Junior Championships are supported by Panasonic, Vodafone, Coke, Garnier, Banana Boat, Von Zipper and Surfing Australia.
Tune in the www.billabongpro.com from January 1st for all the live action available via Webcast