Billabong Junior Pro

Surf: Waist to occasional chest-high, easterly windswell

Events Held: Round 3 to the final (Mens); Semifinals on up (Girls)

Nature's Call: If this despicable trend continues, you're gonna have to wait a couple weeks for the next contest to find any waves around these parts

Predicted: Alejandro Moreda will have a hangover on Monday; A Puerto Rican surfer will qualify for the WCT in the next two years.

"How is it that we only get waves here when there's some big contest?" Tom O'Brien, Sr. wasn't alone in his query. All of the Brevard County surfing community that chose to show up at Sebastian Inlet on March 4th-5th thought the same thing. As if they weren't already powerful enough, the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) now seemed like they were actually controlling the swell conditions in Florida. It was grade school flat for almost three weeks prior to the last big deal here, the Globe Sebastian Inlet Pro, which by Sunshine State standards was "on-fire" for the entire duration of the 4-star contest. The next day--flat. The next week--flat. And two months later, aside from no more than three placating chest-high days during the right tide--flat. But go figure: the Sunday chosen to schedule the Billabong Junior Pro fit like a fin key. And Mr. O'Brien, who watched his son win this very contest two years ago in far, far shittier conditions, could only scratch his head, perplexed at the Inlet's remarkable ability to once again come through for pro surfing's sake.

The first day of competition (Saturday) had to be postponed until 1:00 pm for lack of waves, and by Sunday's semifinals, last year's winners--Eric Geiselman and Connie Arias--had been dispatched, leaving it up to Cocoa Beach's Christa Alves and Melbourne Beach's Blake Jones to keep it local. In the Girls final, Alves surfed well enough to take down sentimental 13-year-old favorite Keenan Lineback from South Carolina, but the tiki trophy ultimately went west with Golden State visitor Sage Erickson. As for the Men's final, Blake Jones attempted a few brow-raising backside hits but came unglued and never regained his form to place 4th. Dylan Graves launched a massive backside air-reverse but failed to touch down, and he wound up with 3rd. Alex Gray fought hard with a valiant, last-minute effort. Riding an incredibly fast banana-tinted Ricky Carroll shape, however, Gulf {{{Breeze}}}'s {{{Sterling}}} Spencer had already wrapped it up in the first few minutes, one of his tail-blowing-out-the-back rides earning him the highest single wave score of the comp, a 9.65, and the Panhandle local's first-ever pro scalp. "I rode this in the World Juniors a few weeks ago, and it felt really buoyant, like it gave me that speed others weren't getting, so it seemed smart to use it. I've won four NSSA East Coast titles here at the Inlet before, but this is my first pro victory, so I'm way stoked. I've always wanted to be considered the best Gulf Coaster since the Lopezes, so this helps my cause."

Performer Of The Day: Alex Gray… hands down. For the first two years of this contest being held at Sebastian Inlet (the inaugural 2000 Bong Junior Pro went down at Ramp 34 on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which an undefeated Eric Taylor won without breaking a sweat), Californians ran away with the victories: (Dane Johnson in 2001 and Che Stang in 2002). ET, Tommy O'Brien and Eric Geiselman did good on stealing the title back and keeping it Floridized for the next three years, but things got weird every time South Bay, CA, star (not to mention last year's 'Bong Junior Pro runner-up) Alex Gray paddled out this weekend. By the end of the day on Sunday, Alex had posted three of four of the highest heat scores of the contest (9.0, 9.25, 9.5), and didn't hold back until the final buzzer. Alex has proven himself to be a big fan of the East Coast contest scene. He's regularly seen doing even the lower-rated Rightside QS's throughout the year--showing an athletic focus well beyond his years, and a natural ability that far overshadows his somewhat sensationalized charisma. Not only that, but Gray digs the dudes 'round here. In fact, he dedicated this hard-fought runner-up placing to Puerto Rican semifinalist Alejandro Moreda, who just turned 20 on this day.

Heat Of The Day: The beach was buzzing about Dylan Graves' disturbing air-reverse in the Round of 48 (disturbing enough to grant him a 9.0), but Semifinal #1 featured Dylan Graves surfing with a light-footedness only akin to the WQS's top contenders. Seeing as Graves' had been reveling in nearly nonstop winter swell back home in Puerto Rico, his lethal Inlet dance made one truth evident: There are two types of pro surfers: those who whine about having to grovel in Florida crap for points, and those who just suck it up and do it, and do it well. Dylan's the latter. And in the end, that's the kind of ego-stripped determination that one needs to make the WCT. Dylan was so polished, even Alex Gray's blistering, 9.25-scoring forehand combo couldn't top the Puerto Rican for 1st, before both advanced to the final.

Shockers: That there were actually waves for this thing… Other than that, it was the slight irony involved with the contest's chosen poster boy, Sterling Spencer, taking out the most consistent, in-form surfers of the event (Graves and Gray)… and doing it handily in the first few minutes of the final.

Results Of The Billabong Junior Pro Sebastian Inlet

Sage Erickson, $1000
Christa Alves, $450
Keenan Lineback, ${{{300}}}
Leilani Pickett, $250

Sterling Spencer, $2000
Alex Gray, $1000
Dylan Graves, $800
Blake Jones, $700

For more info on the 2006 Billabong Junior Pro Series Go to