World's Best Juniors Descend on Sydney for Billabong ASP World Junior Championships
Contesting in their respective regional ASP Pro Junior Series throughout the 2009 season, qualifiers for the prestigious Billabong ASP World Junior Championships include 48 men and 18 women from the seven ASP regions: Africa, Australasia, Europe, Japan, North America and South America.
While the event has been held at North Narrabeen's famed peaks for over a decade now, the ASP Australasia region hasn't seen a men's champion since Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, in 2001. Owen Wright (Lennox Head, NSW), 19, ASP Australasia's No. 1 seed and qualifier onto the 2010 ASP Dream Tour, will look to cap off an incredible junior career with a big result at North Narrabeen.
'Last year (in the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships), a lot of things went the wrong way for me,' Wright said. 'It will be tough since the field has a lot of the same faces from last year, but I'm looking forward to it. Narrabeen is an awesome location; the Alley rights are so puntable and the lefts are long and sometimes barreling so I hope we get it pumping this year!'
ASP South America has been dominant at the Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, with Brazilians taking our four of the 10 men's titles in the event's history. Jadson Andre (Natal City, BRA), 19, 2010 ASP Dream Tour rookie and last year's ASP World Junior Runner-Up, will lead the latest ASP South America squad into this season's event.
'I think I put in a good performance last year, but during the final I didn't catch the best waves, Kai (Barger) was surfing very well during the event and deserved the victory,' Andre said. 'This year, I know and believe all the guys competing at Narrabeen are strong and have a chance to win. All the heats are like a final, so because of this I will give 100% attention in all the heats. I have been working on my psychological, physical aspect and my surfboards. I'm going to surf well and find the best results.'
ASP North America has not ventured as well in Narrabeen. Despite producing formidable teams, the North Americans have yet to claim an ASP World Junior Title a fact that Nat Young (Santa Cruz, CA), 18, hopes to rectify in his second appearance at the prestigious event.
'The standard of competition in this contest is crazy, every first round heat could be a Final in a normal junior contest,' Young said. 'Personally, I would definitely like to do better this year. Last year was my first year in the contest and I made a couple heats so I was stoked, but this contest is so important to all the juniors because it is the biggest junior contest of the year. I think the other US guys are all great surfers and they have all had contests this year where they have shown that they are worthy of being in the World Juniors. I think this year could be a good year for the U.S.'
Kai Barger (HAW), 20, reigning ASP World Junior Champion, has graduated beyond the ASP Pro Junior Series, but remains enthusiastic about his fellow Hawaiians in Narrabeen.
'Looking at the Hawaii team, I think it would be sick to see Clay Marzo win, Barger said. 'If he surfs anything like he has been surfing at home then he's easily capable.'
Barger more than understands the importance of the event, and the effect a victory there can have on someone's career.
'If there's one contest to do well in, then trust me this is the one to win,' Barger said. 'This contest changed my life and sometimes I still can't believe I won there. There were a lot of nuts guys last year the surfing standard was so high. It seemed like everybody was pulling out their best.'
Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, recently crowned two-time ASP World Champion, knows a thing or two about winning and offered his own thoughts on the Billabong ASP World Juniors.
'I never got one!it's a tough title to win,' Fanning said. 'Back in the day it was really a battle between the Americans, Hawaiians and Aussies, but these days, there are contenders from each of the ASP regions and I think the list of recent past winners is a reflection of that.'
Despite the heavily-loaded field in this year's Billabong ASP World Junior Championships, Fanning's pick for the title stays close to home.
'Owen (Wright) is World Champ material if you ask me,' Fanning said. 'I've watched him evolve over the years and he'll be the man to beat at the World Juniors for sure, provided he's recovered from some heavy injuries suffered during the Portugal World Tour event.'
The Billabong ASP World Junior Championships mirrors the competition format of the ASP World Tour and is considered the sport's 'crystal ball' for aspiring champions. In addition, a Final's placing in the tournament affords the successful surfers an unrivalled seeding on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) that serves as a springboard to the ASP World Tour.
The Billabong ASP World Junior Championships will be webcast LIVE via www.billabongpro.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
PAST ASP WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONS:
2008: Kai Barger (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)
2007: Pablo Paulino (BRA), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
2006: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Nicola Atherton (AUS)
2005: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), Jessi Miley-Dyer (AUS)
2004: Pablo Paulino (BRA)
2003: Adriano de Souza (BRA)
2001: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
2000: Pedro Henrique (BRA)
1999: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
1998: Andy Irons (HAW)
Pictured: Owen Wright (AUS), 19, 2010 ASP World Tour rookie, is an odds-on favorite at the upcoming Billabong ASP World Junior Championships.
Credit: © ASP/ CI/ ROBERTSON via GETTY IMAGES