The Billabong Juniors At Sebastian Inlet
An all-Californian final “rains” supreme.
Beginning in January of this year, Che Stang, an eighteen-year-old Carlsbad, California junior pro, took off for Australia where he spent four weeks honing his surfing with Joel Parkinson and the Australian Billabong team on the Gold Coast. After an entire month there, he then went home for a week, only to take off for Florida another week later. His body was traveled and tired; however, his surfing was ready and solid-it showed.
He was in Florida to take part in the second-annual Billabong Junior Pro at Sebastian Inlet. The contest, held March 2-3, is a highlight of some of mainland America’s brightest star surfers age twenty and under. And despite the fact that there’s numerous talent coming out of the Inlet area and Florida in general, a revved-up Stang and his fellow Californians Anthony Petruso, Dane Johnson, and Ian Rotgans made it an all-Golden State final.
As for the other surfers, at least they had waves. The conditions up until the contest kept the organizers of the event puzzled. Is the front moving offshore? Is it gonna rain tomorrow? Nobody really knew, not even the weather forecasters-in Florida you can’t guess what you’ll get. So when the first day of the contest window opened, everyone saw the heavy onshore winds and thought they’d take a chance on the next day even though there was a rare Florida thing called head-high surf. Soon after the call to postpone was made, things calmed down a bit and the conditions improved-was it right?
With only three days to run and one down, the next morning was much of the same-at least there were waves. And for the preliminary rounds through the semis the next day, conditions turned better and the beach filled up in time for the second day’s heats. The famous wedge, an Inlet trademark where waves bounce against the fishing jetty and peak up, was somewhat absent but still good.
In semi number one it was Johnson and Stang (ex-National Champion Carlsbad High teammates, current Billabong team members, and old friends) versus Florida Gulf Coaster Sterling Spencer and Jacksonville’s Ryan Briggs. Despite some solid surfing by a much-improved Spencer and Briggs, neither could keep up with Stang and last year’s event-champ Johnson.
In the other semi, the big, powerful surfing of a big, powerful Anthony Petruso combined with La Jolla, California’s Ian Rotgans for a one-two punch against locals Justin Jones and Danny Estes to create an all-California final. In the final, the offshore winds picked up, the sun peeked out, and the surf was still fun. A fired-up Stang didn’t waste time showing off what he’d learned during his Australian vacation-he held the others off for the win (1,500 dollars, and of all things, a new guitar). Although Johnson seemed to be battling with Stang throughout the heat, Petruso’s strong turns earned him second, with Johnson in third, and Rotgans holding up the back. “Yeah, I thought Dane was gonna win it,” said Stang. “He’s just Dane. I was just going in it to win it. Why else?” As for the guitar, he’s never picked one up but now plans on becoming a rock star: “I might learn how to play the guitar-look out, music industry.”-A.C.
Final Results Of The Billabong Juniors At Sebastian Inlet:
4. Ian Rotgans