"How You Say, World Champion?"
By Will Hayden-Smith
Sydney's blue summer sky broke through the clouds at Narrabeen early this morning, the perfect start to a day that would see two new Billabong World Junior Champions crowned.
Quarter final number one was called on at 7am sharp, with prodigious Brazillian Gabriel Medina to take on Maui wild one Clay Marzo, save for the slight problem of Clay being nowhere to be seen. His team manager, Stephen Bell, manages to delay the start of the heat by 15 minutes, his charge still failing to front. The hooter goes anyway and Gabriel notches a couple of average scores before Clay finally hits the water, seven minutes late. This precedes a 20 minute lull, and one of the world's most talented young surfers leaves the contest with only 1.6 points to show for his efforts. Bummer.
The next heat sees number one seed, and last year's runner-up, Jadson Andre dash Australia's hopes of a 2009 clean sweep by eliminating Stuart Kennedy. "Well, I guess the Brazilians are guaranteed a spot in the final," Stu mumbles, disappointed, ripping off his comp jersey. The young Aussies are acutely aware that it has been nine years since Joel Parkinson last claimed a World Junior Championship for the locals, and every year they are increasingly disappointed when the opportunity to reclaim the crown passes them by.
Next up brash Santa Cruz ripper Nat Young takes on the giant killer from Reunion Island, Maxime Huscenot. Maxime is out to an early lead, picking off the best waves of the heat, surfing super smooth like a young Jeremy Flores and showing the form that sent Owen Wright packing the day before. A left pops up with five minutes remaining on the clock and the Californian goofy-footer swoops with a huge cutback, tight snap and rad air, but he stumbles at the stomp, and with him go the hopes of an American Title.
The Alley Rights turn on for the final quarter final, Hawaiian Granger Larsen against the third Brazilian standing, Alejo Muniz. Granger nails the biggest score of the heat with a huge carve and high flying punt, but is left looking for a back-up score. With a minute on the clock and only needing a six something Granger scratches into a fast right, kicking things off with a sharp carve and stomping the biggest air of the heat. "Even Alejo thought I got the score," says a dejected Granger after the judges disagree and hand him a 5.9 and an early shower.
Three out of four surfers in the semis are Brazilians, the first semi an all samba, all goofy, affair. At 19, and already qualified for next year's Top 45, Jadson is the veteran against high flying Medina. These two have been the talk of the town all week. Jadson has been on fire, lighting up the Alley Rights on his backhand, but Gabriel stole his limelight in round three, racking up a crazy heat total of 19.57 and coming desperately close to the perfect twenty he scored in the final of last year's King Of The Groms.
On this occasion though, its Jadson who gets the better of the exchange, his powerful top-to-bottom carves proving to much for Gabe's punts. "Nobody wants this title more than me," says Jadson as he comes in from defeating his fellow Brazilian.
Every time Maxime hits the water he gets better, but Alejo doesn't roll over in semi final two, and we have a battle on our hands. The pair go wave for wave, exchanging big hacks and end section punts, but Maxime's timing and flow are superior and the giant killer adds another scalp to his belt.
Before the final you'd be crazy to think that Jadson doesn't have it in the bag. Jadson is widely acknowledged as the next best in Brazil after Adriano De Souza, and his full rotation, corked air reverses have been rock solid all week long. As for Maxime, well, Maxime who? No disrespect to the young fellow, even though he knocked Owen Wright earlier this week, nobody gives him a chance.
Things follow the script at first. Jadson punts and spins and locks in the scores he needs to lead. The waves are by now plum average and Maxime, who clearly hasn't been told how things are meant to play out, strikes back quickly. The Reunionais sticks to the game plan that has got him this far: surf smooth, fast, and most importantly, catch the best waves. Jadson seems out of sorts, falling more than he has all event, and losing his rhythm as he is overtaken when Maxime lacerates a long right.
In the last minute Jadson rolls the dice for the final time. He takes off on a medium size runner and, needing a 7.5 to hoist the trophy, goes to work on his backhand. Three big blasts in a row are well received by the large crowd, and he throws in a coupla shoreside wiggles to top it all. To the neutral observer, who has seen a week of high scores thrown only at aerials, it doesn't seem enough, but as Jadson claims up a storm his countrymen lose it, the cheers and screams audible miles away. As Jadson kisses his board in celebration, it is announced he is, for the second year in a row, the runner up.
The roles reverse and suddenly it is the Euroforce flooding to the water's edge. Miky Pikon, Jeremy Flores and Tiago Pires are on hand, and Huscenot is being throned to the podium, a huge tricolor above his head. As Maxime is showered with cans of Monster the humble kid says how much he hopes hope Jadson and Owen do well on tour this year because they're his favourite surfers. Jadson is disappointed, but he'll be back next year, and he, and Owen and the rest of the Aussies and the junior world will be too, gunning for the latest kid to make a name for himself on the sands of Narrabeen. Maxime himself will be back for a few years yet too, he's only 17.