By Matt Pruett/ESM

"It's getting bigger," said the freckled kid with the video camera, as a brush fire raged near Fellsmere on the other side of the Indian River, closing northbound lanes on I-95 and taking some of the attention off what was happening out in the water at Sebastian Inlet, FL, on March 5th.

Which wasn't much.

It seemed it had been forever since the commentator announced a score above a 4.0 on Finals Day for the Billabong Junior Pro Sebastian Inlet. That is, until a fired-up San Juan, PR, surfer by the name of Tommy Bursian lit into a surprise nug off the bat in his semifinal heat against a trio of badass Californians — Chris Waring, Dane Ward, and Cory Arrambide. Waring looked particularly sharp, drawing eerie {{{comparisons}}} to North Carolina pro Ben Bourgeois' eye-pleasing backfoot style, and getting the nod into the final with Bursian. In the other semi, Inlet local Blake Jones and Vero Beach-by way of Montauk, NY-by way of Hawaii surfer Travis Beckmann doused a wave-starved Adam Wickwire and phenomegrom Evan Geiselman to advance to the final with Bursian and Waring.

Once again, Bursian grabbed the first bump that came to him and went to town, cracking his fins out, connecting everything, and getting impossible transitions out of the chops. Right up until the hooter, nothing — not Waring's polished backside sweeps, Jones' seemingly underscored tuberide and backup vert, or Beckmann's air-reverse — could deny Bursian his first pro win, leaving Beckmann with a well-deserved 2nd, the lone Golden Stater in 3rd, and Jones in 4th for the second year in a row.

With Juan Ashton's recent victory at the ISA World Masters Championships, Dylan Graves' steady climb up the WQS ratings, and Brian Toth's relentless Hawaiian charge and East Coast pro wins — Bursian is the latest headline in an era of growing Puerto Rican dominance. "Alejandro (Moreda) and I are sort of the underdogs as far as coming up under Dylan and Brian," he said. "So we're amped to show everyone we can do it, too. It's great to start off the season with a win. Next week is the Corona Contest at Domes, too, and lots of these guys will be there. So what better way to go into that contest than with a win here?"

In the Women's final, defending champ Sage Erickson failed to back up her '06 victory when confronted by 14-year-old Santa Ana, CA, dynamo Courtney Conlogue's savage backhand assault. Sage was left in 2nd with South Carolina wahine Keenan Lineback in 3rd, and Venezuelan visitor Ornella Pellizari in 4th. "Yeah, my backhand's better," Conlogue giggled. "I've always felt like I could throw it harder. I'm glad it paid off for me today. I'm also glad I got to come out here and hang out with Keenan. I think she's really talented."

While Conlogue's victory was certainly celebrated, she didn't get the shorebreak boost that Bursian received. Buddies Wesley Toth and Marshall Alberga hoisted the San Juan ripper atop their shoulders, which is becoming more and more of a common sight these days for the Puerto Ricans. Don't expect that trend to end anytime soon. These kids are on fire.Courtney Conlogue, Girls Billabong Junior Pro Champ. PHOTO: {{{Jimmy}}} Wilson

Performer Of The Day: Though Bursian had no equal from the semifinals on, you had to hand it to Travis Beckmann. With no one really challenging the Puerto Rican halfway into the final, Beckmann snagged a rare, lined-up right, high-lined it, and busted a lofty air-reverse. The move finally made shivering on the beach worthwhile for the spectators (who could've easily sat home and watched Billabong's remarkably tight live webcast), and Beckmann's boost raised the level of the other finalists, particularly Bursian, who immediately went nitro — turning a vertical slam into a slick one-motion of his own for a surefire win.

Heat Of The Day: The Men's final, without a doubt. Airs, hacks, rights, lefts, barrels — the best rides of the contest going down in the best waves of the contest. Isn't that how it should be?

Shockers: Heavily favored New Smyrna Beach, FL, golden child and former event winner Eric Geiselman placed a disappointing 4th in his Round 4 heat, a definite shocker for the two-time ASP North America Pro Junior Series winner. "Maybe Eric's been surfing too many good waves lately," piped local contestant Marshall Alberga. "I saw him in Hawaii, then he did that Hobgood Challenge in the Carolines, then he got to go and charge big Tahiti… He should've just hung out here and groveled with us." Meanwhile, little brother Evan advanced to the semis, where he was ultimately dispatched by Jones and Beckmann.

Quotables: "Whoa, easy Margo gaff! That's, like, the best turn I've ever seen a girl do. How come our (East Coast) girls don't surf like that?" –DVS East Coast Team and Promotions Manager Jon Gilleland, upon witnessing Conlogue's somewhat masculine tailsliding backside snap