NEWCASTLE, Australia (Saturday, March 12, 2011) – MEREWETHER’s Jake Sylvester has become the first local surfer since 2002 to win an Association of Surfing Professional’s (ASP) junior men’s title in his home city.
The 17-year-old defeated Gold Coast surfer Thomas Woods to claim the ASP 4-Star US$20000 Newcastle CHIKO Pro Junior and become the first Novacastrian to have his named etched on the trophy since Travis Lynch won the title nine years ago.
It was Sylvester’s day from start to finish. He racked up the only 10 point ride awarded during the contest in his semi-final heat with Port Macquarie’s Matt Banting.
Banting, who was one of the form surfers coming into today’s final, incurred an interference call in his heat with Sylvester following a mix-up concerning which surfer held priority.
Sylvester’s best result before today at the elite level of the ASP Australasian junior division was as a quarter-finalist.
“It’s amazing, I feel so good, I’ve never made it past quarters before.
“At the start of the year I’ve had three pretty average results and only made it past one heat so it’s excellent to get a win here in front of the home crowd,” he said.
A contingent of Merewether locals chaired Sylvester from the beach while others, including his immediate family and 86-year-old grandfather John,
clapped and cheered the natural-footer with a penchant for explosive surfing that the modern judging system amply rewards.
Sylvester’s tactics in the final today showed a cool surfing head on young shoulders.
Once he had the lead with five minutes remaining, he could maximise use of his priority and shadow Woods to prevent the 17-year-old Tugun surfer from catching the wave he needed to grab the lead, or he could chance his luck on wind-affected waves that were rarely holding up.
Sylvester made a winning choice.
“I was sitting as close to him as possible and wasn’t going to let him get the wave that would give him the score he needed,” said Sylvester.
Sylvester, who this year deferred his entrance to the University of Newcastle where he has been accepted into a teaching degree, was quick to share today’s glory with his coaches Dan Frodsham and Hamish Nelson.
“I’m hanging with Dan pretty much every day and a fair bit with Hamish too.
“They sit down and talk with me before heats and discuss what is happening in the water and work with me to get me in the right frame of mind,” Sylvester said.
The “right frame of mind” they got Sylvester into today means he will pocket US$4000 for the win and pick up 1000 points in the race for the 2011 ASP Australasian junior men’s title.
Today’s win elevates him in the junior men’s ratings from 53 to 16.
Sylvester intends to “have some fun” tonight but is conscious of the fact that he lines up again this week at Merewether beach.
He won the round of 32 wild card entry into the ASP 4-star US$85000 Burton Toyota Pro which gets underway at the same beach on Tuesday.
In the junior women’s 2-star US$3000 CHIKO Pro Junior, 16-year-old Niki Van Dijk from Smiths Beach on Phillip Island in Victoria defeated Felicity Palmateer from Trigg Beach in Perth, Western Australia.
Van Dijk, the current U/18 Australian champion, came to the attention of the surfing world following her ninth placing in the 2009 Rip Curl Pro.
Today she racked up a 9.5 in the final to secure the highest individual wave score in the junior women’s CHIKO Pro Junior.
Her total of 17 points in the final also gave her the highest heat score of the day in that contest.
Van Dijk, who lists maths and physics among her interests, is off to the world championships in Peru in May.
This year she is focused on her surfing and the Pro Junior tour.
“I’m really enjoying my surfing and it’s great to get the win today,” she said.
Today’s win catapults Van Dijk into second place in the ASP Australasian junior rankings behind Queenslander Dimity Stoyle – the surfer she beat in today’s semi-finals.
Action at the Burton Toyota Surfest gets underway tomorrow at 7.30am at Merewether beach with the Westfield Triple O Challenge where staff from NSW emergency services compete fin the water and socialise on land.
The four-star Burton Toyota Pro and six-star Legendary Pacific Coast Pro commence on Tuesday 15 March.