Merewether, Newcastle, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA (Thursday, January 15, 2015).
MANY of the planet’s most talented aspiring male pro surfers from 11 countries have already filled the card at the Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior at Surfest Newcastle Australia slotted for February 13-15 at Merewether beach.
When entries closed, 123 surfers had applied for 96 spots in the 1000 point World Surf League Men’s Regional Junior Qualifying Series event. In response to this massive demand from the world’s most promising juniors, organisers have extended the field from 96 to 112.
And it’s not just massive interest from the young men. The Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior for women has attracted 48 surfers from eight countries but there are only 32 berths available.
Organiser Warren Smith said the World Surf League rankings will determine which juniors will get the starter’s nod.
“The interest from juniors around the world means this is the most international field a Surfest Pro Junior has had for years. It’s very pleasing that in our 30th anniversary year the event is able to attract more entries in the junior division from around the world than there are places available,” he said.
“As Newcastle’s only annual international sporting event, we have to thank Hunter Business Boardriders for stepping up when we had no sponsor for 2015,” Smith said.
While there is a huge international field, there’s a number of local juniors who hope to keep the trophy in New South Wales.
Among local surfers hoping to keep the trophies in the Newcastle area are Jackson Baker, James McMoreland, Luke Hamilton and Danielle Hancock.
It’s been a huge few weeks for Jackson Baker. He was crowned both 2014 Merewether Surfboard Club open and junior champion in December and less than three weeks later he celebrated his 18th birthday.
Baker will go into the Hunter Business Pro Junior as the region’s strongest contender. The 18-year-old natural-footer spent a month staying with friends at Waimea Bay on Hawaii’s north shore during the current Hawaiian winter honing his ability in a wide range of conditions. He ranked 8th in the last year’s Australian junior series after commencing the year with a top ten goal and sees 2015 as a year to improve on that result.
“Winning the Merewether Surfboard Club’s championship in the year the club was named Surfing Australia’s surfboard club of the year was incredible. It’s a dream growing up in Merewether to become the club champion because the surfers who have won it are all people I have always looked up to since I started surfing,” Baker said.
The Saint Francis Xavier’s College year 12 student says he is aiming to break into the nation’s top four junior surfers in 2015 and continue to improve his profile through targeted photo shoots. Baker landed a coveted Surfing Life cover last year after local Newcastle surfing photographer Peter Boskovic snapped him in the air at Stockton beach in Newcastle.
Changes in the World Surf League age groupings mean this will be Baker’s last year as a junior before he must step up to the open level.
“I’m surfing in pro junior comps in Sydney and Burleigh before Surfest. Then I am aiming for a comp in New Zealand and two more in Tahiti.
“But as a local I really want to win a Surfest title. Every local surfer does,” he said.
Nineteen-year-old James McMoreland part-time Lake Macquarie lifeguard surfs for Frenchmans Boardriders and came second in last weekend’s Catherine Hill Bay Classic. McMoreland was runner-up in the 2013 New South Wales School Surfing State Titles and won the wildcard into last year’s main event at Surfest.
“The line up for the pro-junior at Surfest is always pretty tough but it’s a great contest and you just give it your best shot,” McMoreland said.
Kotara High student and the 2013 Merewether Surfboard Club’s junior men’s club champion Luke Hamilton is another surfer keen for the Hunter Business Boardrider’s Pro Junior.
The natural-footer was part of the Merewether team that won the Kirra Team Challenge in 2014 and will get some early competition experience when he dons the coloured singlet as part of the Merewether Surfboard Club’s contingent tackling the $10,000 ORICA Teams challenge on Stockton Beach from February 6.
In the Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior for women, Danielle Hancock is another Merewether Surfboard Club surfer whose recent form firmly suggests the possibility of bigger things. The Swansea High student, who will turn 17 next month, made it through to the quarter-finals at the Australian junior surfing titles in Yallingup in Western Australia last month.
Hancock – who has been surfing for just three years – sits at fourth in the New South Wales pro junior rankings. With a strong competitive background in surf lifesaving, Hancock is looking to test her ability against some of the toughest competitors from around the globe.