Six champions were crowned on the final day of competition at the Rusty Gromfest today, catapulting their names, and careers, to surfing folklore.
In deteriorating 1m conditions at Lennox Head, competitors took the standard to another level, showing skill, poise and maturity.
The blue ribbon divisions, the 16 years boys and gilrs, were taken out by Coolangatta’s wonder-kid Jack Freestone and Newcastle’s rising star Phillipa Anderson.
Freestone, who didn’t catch a wave until four minutes remaining on the clock in the final, was cool under pressure, meticulously reeling his counterparts in with ease.
“I just couldn’t get a wave,” Freestone said.
“I didn’t freak out, I just stayed calm and waited for the right wave and it paid off in the end.”
Heralding his place among the best juniors in world, Freestone backed up his win at the Occy Grom Comp with a resounding victory at the Rusty Gromfest.
“I never dreamed that I could win both events,” he admitted after defeating Mitchell Baker (Cowes, Vic), Guillermo Satt (Chile) and Jake Sylvester (Bar Beach, NSW) in the final.
Phillipa Anderson (Merewether/Newcastle, NSW) was victorious in the under 16 years division, capping off an outstanding Rusty Gromfest campaign.
“I’m so stoked,” she said after accruing 10.40 (out of a possible 20) in the final.
After finishing second last year in same division, Anderson was ecstatic to go one better.
“I finished second last year. It was definitely my goal to take it out this year, to do it is amazing,” she said.
“The standard is so high and with all the international crew it makes it such a good event.”
Georgia Fish (Flinders, Vic), Lyla Wright (Lennox Head, NSW) and Naomi Stevic (Castaways, Qld) finished second, third and fourth respectively.
Matt Banting (Port Macquarie, NSW) confirmed the buzz surrounding his emerging superstar status with yet another big junior title in the 14 boys.
Byron Bay’s Soli Bailey was runner-up.
Surfing immaculately on his forehand throughout, Banting accrued a score of 16.50 (out of a possible 20) including an impressive nine-point ride that secured his place on the prestigious honour roll.
Fellow superstar Tyler Wright (Culburra Beach, NSW) continued her dominance of junior female surfing, with a decisive victory in the under 14 girls.
Dominant throughout the entire event, Wright was pushed all the way by Sarah Mason (Tugun, Qld), Manuel Hereiti (Tahiti) and Eden Putland (Currumbin Waters, Qld), but was just unstoppable in the end.
Karelle Poppke (Tahiti) took out the under 12 years girls division with a commanding display of innovative surfing.
Accruing a total heat score of 13.65 (out of a possible 20), Poppke accounted for Zoe Clarke (Jan Juc, Vic), Laura Poncini (Moffat Beach, Qld) and Olivia Wheeler (Coolangatta, Qld) who finished second, third and fourth respectively.
In the 12 years boys division it was another international competitor taking home the trophy as South African Benji Brand won the hotly contested final.
Brand was a standout throughout the entire event, using a powerful repertoire to take the title from event favourite Michael Wright (Culburra Beach, NSW), Nic Doran (Caloundra, QLD) and 10-year-old ace Jack Robinson (Margaret River, WA).
PICTURE: Byron Bay’s Soli Bailey was runner-up in the 14 year boys at Gromfest.