Oakley Pro Junior Hits North Stradbroke

QUEENSLANDERS will get their second dose of professional surfing action in as many weeks, with the island wave haven of North Stradbroke set to host the second stop of the 2009 ASP Australasian Pro Junior Series this week.

Kicking off tomorrow, the second annual Oakley Pro Junior will see a 140-strong field of contestants from as far a field as Bali, France, Hawaii, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Tahiti and the USA go head-to-head against Australia's brightest junior stars for surfing supremacy.

The prestigious tournament is the first of seven Oakley pro junior events organised for Brazil, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, USA and South Africa in '09. The champion and runner-up from each event will be taken to a secret location to battle it out for more cash and prizes.

Australian surfing ace and 2009 ratings leader Owen Wright (Lennox Head, NSW) is scheduled to line-up in the 5-star rated, $30,000 tournament, with aims of extinguishing the international onslaught on this year's junior series.

"The internationals have been killing it of late," said Wright.

"They showed us up at the world juniors, so we Aussies really need to pull our act together and do our nation proud."

Wright, who defeated Brazilian Miguel Pupo to win the opening event of this year's series on the Gold Coast last week, will start Australia's richest pro junior event as hot favourite.

"I couldn't have asked for a better start to the year," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to extending my ratings lead at Straddie. I'm feeling fit and my boards are working well, so hopefully I can go well."It has been a whirlwind 12 months for the talented goofy foot, which has seen him defeat the world's top aerial surfers to win the Boost Surf Sho and bag a string of wins on the Australasian Pro Junior circuit.

2008 ASP Australasian Pro Junior Series champion Stuart Kennedy (Lennox Head, NSW) enters the event as no.2 seed and is searching for a big result after a poor start to this year's circuit.

"I haven't had the ideal start," said Kennedy, who was bundled out in round five of the opening event of the year.

"Though I'm only doing a select few events on this year's junior circuit, so I guess I'm just using these events as a bit of practice for my 'QS campaign."

But he'll once again be amongst some tough competition with world junior champion Kai Barger (Hawaii), world junior runner-up Jadson Andre and semi-finalist Marc Lacomare (France) preparing for a tilt at the title.

The Gold Coast's best hopes for silverware lie with Mitch Crews (Currumbin), Noa Deane (Coolangatta), Blake Ainsworth (Coolangatta), Dan Pryor (Currumbin), Jack Freestone (Coolangatta) and Chris Bennetts (Main Beach), whilst the Sunshine Coast will be well represented with Chris Friend (Alex Headland), James Cervi (Sunshine Beach) and Tom Pringle (Mudjimba).

Straddie has had a long connection with Queensland surfing, acting as a wave magnet for surfers keen on barrelling waves as well as spawning several surfing champions. Born-and-bred world tour ace Bede Durbidge honed his surfing act on the long point break waves of Cylinder along with the punchy beach breaks of Main Beach.

However, top ranked competitors won't be able to rest on their laurels with a swag of the island's best junior surfers including Ash McDonald, Logan Specht, Jack Milliken, Murray Antonieff and Darcy Phillips keen to outdo their more fancied foes on home turf.

Emerging Queensland talent and local lad Tim McDonald has received a wildcard in the top seeded round of the exclusive tournament courtesy of Oakley.

The Oakley Pro Junior is the second stop of the 2009 ASP Australasian Pro Junior Series and offers a five-day surfing window, from Tuesday 3rd February to Saturday 7th February, 2009.

The 2009 Oakley Pro Junior is proudly supported by Stradbroke Island Holidays, Stradbroke Ferries, Redland City Council, Waves Magazine, ASP Australasia and Surfing Queensland.

All event updates can be found on – http://live.coastalwatch.com or www.Oakley.com