The setting was a south coast, NSW beachbreak, but the winners were both from Polynesia.
It was a glorious day for two surfers from the Polynesian islands. Tahiti’s Vahine Fierro claimed the Jeep Women’s World Junior Championship, while Hawaii’s Finn McGill was victorious in the Men’s division. Meanwhile Australia, who claimed both titles last year, had less to celebrate. Macy Callaghan, who won the event last year, was knocked out in the quarters while hotly favoured Reef Heazlewood failed to secure a birth in the final rounds.
For McGill, victory was all the more gratifying because he had overcome a skateboarding injury and also gone two places better than his third place (semi-final) result last year. Talking to the WSL after his win, he suggested he entered the event with low expectations. "I came into this event feeling about 85 percent, still dealing with an injury. Then I nearly missed my flight here, too, so when I got here I wasn't really expecting to do well."
The solidly built, but nimble-footed Hawaiian natural footer, who rides craft by KS designs/Firewire, first grabbed the attention of the surfing world when he won a slot in the main event of the Pipeline masters back in 2016. Now his world junior title provides him with a head-start in major WQS events and a much better chance to secure a full time position on the WCT. McGill receives a Round of 64 seed in any QS event he enters. Therefore he skips two, challenging early rounds in the QS 10,000 events where the big qualifying points are on offer.
Finn’s win in the World Pro Juniors also means that Hawaii has bragging rights to both the Junior and WCT world champions, after John John Florence’s recent victory. The signs were also good for Japanese surfing with Joh Azuchi making the finals and fellow countryman, Yuji Nishi, securing a semi-finals finish. Hopefully we will soon see a surfer competing under the Japanese flag on the WCT.
Meanwhile, Vahine Fierro’s victory in the women’s division made her the first Tahitian to win a WSL world title of any kind. Vahine honed her skills on the main island of Tahiti after growing up on the island of Huahine, and qualified for the event via the European region.
Coming in to the final against the acclaimed, Summer Macedo, Vahine relied upon a flowing attack in the challenging conditions to upset her more favoured opponent. Overwhelmed by her victory she told the WSL
"This is such an amazing way to end my Junior career and kick off my 2018 season," … This is the first time I have been to the World Junior Championship and to win is so special, especially when I was so close to missing out on the event."
Several of the more mature competitors from the World Pro Juniors will be heading North to Eastside Sydney for next week's Carve Pro, which is part of the Vissla NSW Pro Surf series (main event from Jan18-21), and the next major event on the NSW summer of surfing calendar. For more information visit http://www.visitnsw.com/surfing
Finn McGill (HAW) 16.90 def. Joh Azuchi (JPN) 11.00
Heat 1. Joh Azuchi (JPN) 11.00 def. Yuji Nishi (JPN) 5.00
Heat 2. Finn McGill (HAW) 11.70 def. Joao Chianca (BRA) 11.00
Heat 1. Joh Azuchi (JPN) 10.17 def. Rio Waida (IDN) 6.56
Heat 2. Yuji Nishi (JPN) 9.67 def. Cody Young (HAW) 6.83
Heat 3. Finn McGill (HAW) 16.03 def. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 8.06
Heat 4. Joao Chianca (BRA) 13.54 def. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 13.07