Kekoa Bacalso Wins Billabong World Junior Championships

Friday 6 January, 2006
Narrabeen Beach, Sydney, Australia

BILLABONG WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
(31 December 2005 — 8 January 2006)

THE ASSOCIATION OF SURFING PROFESSIONALS (ASP) PREMIER JUNIOR EVENT

Live on aspworldtour.com and billabongpro.com

Stocky Hawaiian powerhouse Kekoa Bacalso has claimed ASP world titleholder status by winning the Billabong World Junior Championships held at North Narrabeen Beach, Sydney, Australia, after defeating Tahitian Michel Bourez in the all-Polynesian final.

After getting off to a slow start in the one metre (three foot) wind-blown conditions, Bacalso came home strong, locking into a walling left-breaking wave on his backhand with seven minutes to go.

With his low centre of gravity, Bacalso looked strong on the wave executing lightning fast bottom turns and razor sharp top turns to score a 7.33 out of 10.

From there his opponent was “comboed or put in a position where two good scoring rides are needed to win. Bacalso’s tactics of sitting wide of the break and being patient paid off.

“It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just so stoked, said an elated Bacalso. “All that work was worth it. I followed the same tactics as my previous heats and sat in the same spots and was patient. Toward the end there, all I needed was one more and I grabbed a nice left. I spent a lot of time concentrating on the conditions and stayed off the party program to focus on my surfing in the event and it paid off.

It was a tiring affair for the finalists as they both had to compete three times today before making the final. And with the conditions tricky, with a current running through the middle of the break, it was almost like a biathlon-type endurance event.

“I was really stressed in my semi so when I made the final I was much more relaxed, said Bacalso. “But I was so tired out there and I was trying to run down the beach to the rip to paddle back out and my legs were cramping.

The writing was on the wall early for a Bacalso win after he notched up the top total heat score of the event in round three — a 17.84 out of 20. Pushing him along was a strong Hawaiian contingent who up to round four had five out of 16 surfers remaining in the event.

“There’s so much good talent in Hawaii at the moment and there are a lot of up and coming kids. I’m stoked to represent them as they push me a lot, said Bacalso. “This is such a prestigious event. I’ve been a slump for what seems like forever so this is such a great way to break out of it.

With the win he now follows in the footsteps of another great Hawaiian in three-time Foster’s ASP Men’s World Tour champion Andy Irons, who claimed this event at the beginning of his pro career back in 1998.

Fellow finalist Bourez turned many heads with his fast and flashy style and many believe he has a huge future in the top ranks.

The Tahitian was also struggling with fatigue after the tiresome day but was very happy with his result.

“I was too tired in the final. I could barely even paddle, said Bourez. “My tactics were wrong and I should have just waited to get the good ones rather than go flat out. Still I’m very excited to get a second against so many great surfers. It’s great for Tahiti and it’s great for my seeding on the World Qualifying Series next year and I will be able to do much better.

Finishing in equal third place were Hawaiian Hank Gaskell and Brazilian Jean da Silva who both showed plenty of form throughout the event.

Gaskell lost his semi against Bacalso in the dying seconds when Bacalso stole a last minute ride, which scored him a 7.0. Up till that point the lead was continually swapping and changing as the two went blow for blow.

Interestingly both adopted different strategies with Gaskell electing to sit on the right breaking waves while Bacalso sat further down the beach. Gaskell, who felt he was struggling in the semi, was over the moon wiith his third placing and will take a lot of confidence into next year’s event (he is still young enough for one more year) and into the ASP’s second tier World Qualifying Series.

“I was having a bit of trouble out there, said Gaskell. “I was falling a lot and I knew I had to do a lot to beat Kekoa. If the ocean had have gone flat for a minute longer I would have made the final but I’m happy with my result.

Gaskell and Bacalso have had many heats together and Gaskell paid tribute to his Hawaiian stable mate.

“Kekoa and I have had some good heats over the years, said Gaskell. “All through our amateur careers we’ve been competing against each other and well… if I had to have anyone beat me then I’m glad that it’s him. It’s still a great result in such a prestigious event. I just hope I can come back next year and win it. I’m going to go home now and train for the WQS next year. There’s so many good competitors in this event I’ll take a lot of confidence from it for sure.

Semi final two was an equally riveting affair as da Silva was only just pipped by his foe Bourez late in the heat. Despite hoping that a Brazilian would claim the event he was still taking pride in the fact that Brazilians have had such a huge impact on the event over the past few years.

“We have two wins in a row for Brazil in this event so we are not disappointed by not winning today at all, said da Silva. “Third is a good result for me and to get this result in front of all these great surfers is something I will be proud of.

Speaking on his performance, da Silva, who has such an incredibly smooth style, felt he had the ability to win and will also look forward to a good year on the World Qualifying Series in 2006.

“During the event I think I was surfing good during the heats. I caught a lot of good waves and did some smooth turns. When I go to the WQS having this result will make me feel more confident for sure.

Both Bacalso and yesterday’s inaugural girl’s winner Jessi Miley-Dyer will be etched into the ASP International history books and both will be crowned officially at a gala ceremony alongside World Championship Tour winners Kelly Slater (USA) and Chelsea Georgeson (AUS) and World Qualifying Series winners Adrian de Souza (BRA) and Rebecca Woods (AUS).

The Billabong World Junior Championships are the only ASP International sanctioned junior event and a win here is a launching pad for any aspiring pro surfer. Past winners have included, Irons (1998), Joel Parkinson (1999 and 2001), Pedro Henrique (2000), Adriana de Souza (2003) and Pablo Paulino (2004).

Quarter-finals:

Quarter-final 1:Gaskell 13.16 def Aranburu 7.70
Quarter-final 2:Bacalso 16.00 def Fahrenfort 9.50
Quarter-final 3:Bourez 16.90 def Gray 15.73
Quarter-final 4:Da Silva 14.93 def Hansen 8.83

Semi-finals:

Semi-final 1:Bacalso 14.23 def Gaskell 13.10
Semi-final 2:Bourez 15.64 def da Silva 12.67

Final:
Bacalso 16.00 def Bourez 8.34