Réunion Supergrommet Wins Billabong World Junior Champs
Surf: 3-4 foot good fun beachbreaks
Events held: Boys quarters, semis and final; girls semis and final
Nature's Call: Look, it was a Saturday in Australia, OK?
Predicted: A lot of denial about how good these kids really are
"I'm waking up half of France," grunted Stephen Bell, frantically stabbing at his cell phone's keyboard.
Literally inches away, his 17-year-old supergrom, Maxime Huscenot, was raising his face to the sky, blessed with vast amounts of Monster energy drink being fountained down on him by his grommet buddies in the scaffolding above.
SURFING has rarely seen as all out-stoked a winner as Maxime, who came all the way from Réunion Island to North Narrabeen, taking out the two top-ranked surfers in the event on the way to a thrilling and unlikely win.
Forget the ASP World Tour for a moment. This event has its own special vibe, its own joyful sorta momentum. Partly that's because everyone it is less than 21 years of age and mostly a lot younger. Partly though, we suspect anyway, it's thanks to how they all get here – through a system that gives all the world's surf zones a chance to shine.
Thus, you have days like the past two, in which incredible kids from Brazil, Réunion, Hawaii, Japan and the US show up and blow bigger names out of the water with a smile.
And you have team backup, like "Belly" Bell, an expatriate Australian surfer/shaper who spends a lot of his time tuning kids like Maxime in the French beachbreaks, then preparing them for trips to the other side of the planet, where they win events that give them hall passes to the WQS.
Which Maxime can't use, by the way. "I'm only 17, they don't let you do the tour till you're 18," he said, while Belly hissed "You ain't doing it!" in the background. "Plus I need more time to work on my surfing."
Today should probably have been Brazil's day. They dominated the numbers, with three surfers – Jadson Andre, Gabriel Medina and Alejo Muniz – out of the final four.
But Jadson, who survived a brilliant semi-final with the massively in form Medina, couldn't close the deal in the final, his class hidden under wayward wave choice which left the door open for Maxime in the last few minutes.
And Maxime took advantage, just as he had against Owen Wright in round four and Alejo in the semis. He surfed with a lot of power, getting close to his board in arcing top turns and snaps, less air-dynamic than his opponent but more able to work with the looping flat-faced waves available in the final.
He seemed truly overwhelmed by the win, wrapping himself in a French flag handed to him by a spectator, and burying his head in his hands over and over on the trip back up the beach.
Even his nuggetty mentor was overwhelmed. "You know a kid from when he was that young, and then see him achieve this…" said Belly, almost wiping away a tear.
Girls' winner Laura Enever was equally stoked. The whole formidable mass of Narrabeen's renowned local surfing population turned out to see her absolutely kick the shit out of her home break in a manner you'd never expect from such a slightly built blonde. But Laura is a ferocious competitor, and raised the bar all the way in the final, leaving Hawaii's Alessa Cuizon with little choice to clean up the scraps.
Big brother Chris chaired her up the beach, and the Aussie crowd cheered. They didn't have much else to cheer about. The last Australian left in the event, Stu Kennedy, was shut out by Jadson in a wobbly early morning heat, as was Clay Marzo, who got to Narrabeen several minutes late for his quarterfinal with Medina.
SURFING heard a lot of running excuses in the VIP lounge, about why the final four wouldn't necessarily be the final four if it was six to eight feet or whatever. We reckon they're missing the point.
The supergrom show now moves on to the ISA juniors champs in New Zealand.