|Saffas Gibbens & Joubert 5th at Oakley Pro Junior Final|
Brendon Gibbens : photo Steve Robertson
Gibbens 5th & Joubert 9th as Wrench wins Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge in Bali
South Africans Brendon Gibbens and Shaun Joubert finished fifth and ninth respectively as Australian Sam Wrench was crowned the 2009 Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge champion in Bali yesterday.
Joubert (Mossel Bay) and Gibbens (Kommetjie), both 18-year-old matric students, qualified for the prestigious 18-man field in the world’s richest Pro Junior series by taking the top two spots in the Oakley Pro Junior event at Port Alfred at the beginning of May, joining the top pair from five other countries plus six wildcards in the Global Final.
Set for Keramas Rivermouth in Bali, touted as one of the planet’s premier high performance waves, organisers ensured the competitors enjoyed stellar conditions on each day of the event by only running a handful of heats when the waves, wind and tide were at their best.
Both the South Africans were on fire in the opening round with Joubert winning the first heat of the event in flawless one metre waves ahead of eventual champion Sam Wrench (AUS) and Charly Martin (FRA) while Gibbens defeated last year’s runner-up Marc Lacomare (FRA) and Mustofa Jeksen (IND) to advance directly to Round 3.
The seeding for the event pitted the two South Africans against each other in a highly entertaining tube-riding shootout. Joubert held the upper hand for almost the entire heat, showing brilliant skills, but then Gibbens pulled into possibly the wave of day with just two minutes remaining, maintaining perfect poise through a huge barrelling section to score a 9.5 out of 10 and go to the lead.
“It was make or break for me on that wave,” exclaimed Gibbens. “Luckily I love riding big barrels at home in Cape Town and I was familiar with what I had to do to make the thing. I just held my nerve and held my line on the wave and I made it.”
Joubert made a late valiant attempt to regain the lead in the final minute on a bomb 2.5 metre (8 foot) set wave, committing to a huge tube but just failing to make a clean exit on the ride which would have certainly been a perfect 10. “When I saw Shaun (Joubert) take the last wave I thought he’d regain the lead,” said Gibbens. “He’s such a great tube rider, especially in big waves, but he didn’t so I was fully relieved to win.”
Joubert, who finished third in the inaugural version of the event last year, placed ninth overall this year, pocketing US $2 500 (approx. R18 000), while Gibbens moved into the quarterfinals and a repeat match-up with Lacomare. This time it was the Frenchman’s turn for victory and despite several high-flying aerial manoeuvres from the Capetonian, Gibbens was eliminated in equal fifth place with earnings of US $3 500.
Wrench overcame reigning ASP World Pro Junior champ Kai Barger (HAW) in the semis while Lacomare marched into the final by beating Alejo Muniz (BRA). Lacomare started strongly in the finale, opening with a 7.0 point ride, but Wrench clinched the crown with two deep tube rides in the last 10 minutes, consigning the Frenchman to his second consecutive runner-up finish.
This victory netted Wrench $20,000, the biggest prize purse in Pro Junior surfing. The un-sponsored 19 year-old from Ulladulla on the south coast of NSW entered the Bali event through an alternate ticket made available when fellow countryman Owen Wright pulled out in order to pursue ASP World Qualifying Series points.
“It’s such an amazing wave,” said Wrench. “You can score big in lots of ways, either tube riding, on-face or even aerials. I found getting the longer tube rides suited me and it worked for me today.” Wrench joins last year’s inaugural winner Dusty Payne (Hawaii) on the prestigious winner’s list of the Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge.
The quality of the event was highlighted by the daily scheduling of heats. With plenty of excellent surf in prime time at an A-grade surf location, heats were surfed per day in the following way: 3, 3, 5, 4, 3, 0, 3 and 2 – a scheduling unlikely to be matched in professional surfing.
The Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge is a unique specialty series launched by Oakley in 2008 to give young surfers the opportunity to compete at some of the best surfing locales around the world. After a hugely successful inaugural year, the 2009 series acquired international momentum and qualifying became a main priority for many of the world’s top juniors.
For more information log onto oakleyprojunior.com
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Source: Surfers Village