The Wild Bunch

posted by / News / October 13, 2008

Splashing in the pool amidst a fierce game of sharks and minnow, up-and-coming US surfer Jason Harris suddenly proposes a change of plan. “Let’s just get on our scooters and ride,” he says.

“Yeah, yeah,” the others chime in. “Where should we go?”

“Who cares?” says Kauaian super-talent Sebastian “Seabass” Zietz. “Let’s just ride!”

And just like that, the surf world’s very best rising talents pile onto a quiver of newly rented scooters and scream off into the surging madness of Balinese traffic, honking their horns, screaming like rabid monkeys and firing BB-guns at passing motorists.

This is the Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge. A unique, first-of-its-kind event bringing together the best junior surfers in the world to live together on a lavish Balinese compound while they compete in world class waves for world class money: $75,000 to be exact, with a hefty $20,000 going to the winner. Everything from plane tickets to accommodations is provided. There are drivers on call to scour the island for each day’s best waves. And talented dignitaries like Hawaiian Rico Jimenez and local legend Tipi Jabrick are on hand to help the boys make the most out of their time in on the island.

After a classic Balinese blessing and opening ceremony, competition kicked straight into gear with near-perfect, head-high Keramas [check the Day One highlights on www.oakleyprojunior.com]. While all the 18 juniors — six international Oakley Junior event winners, six runner-ups, and six hand-picked wildcards — put on an amazing display of talent, Day One belonged to Maui-boy Dusty Payne, who’s critical alley-oops and miraculous barrel-riding clearly set him apart from the field.

But here’s what’s special about the event:

After the day of surf ends, the boys all return to their compound — a half dozen, well appointed houses scattered over a couple acres of manicured gardens — where the “competition” can’t help but continue. From pool games to trampoline acrobatics (followed by some precarious combination of the two), you just can’t put a dozen 18-year-old super-groms in the same place without it turning into a one-up-athon. Too much raging testosterone. Too much froth.

If Brazilian Peterson Cristano is gonna do a trampoline flip into the pool, then Frenchman Romain Cloitre is gonna do a one-and-a-half gainer. And if Frenchy’s gonna do that, then Kauaian Seabass is gonna do a double flip.

And so on.

Sharks and minnows turns into underwater wrestling. Hide-and-seek turns into nighttime lawn wrestling. And a scooter trip to the corner store turns into a biker gang from hell.

“That’s the reason we got this place way out in Sanur,” explains event director Ronny Nelson. “If we were in Kuta with these kids, this thing would never happen. We’d be filling out missing person reports instead.”

But everyone involved with this event — from the directors to the photographers to the dads and coaches that came along — can see that there’s something special going on here, too. These super-groms from all over the world are bonding on a real personal level, so that when they meet each other in a heat (and when they eventually meet each other on the WCT tour) they’ll know each other better than just another colored jersey in the lineup. Maybe they won’t all end up as best friends, but for now, you can see the event forging them into something of a unified group. The future of pro surfing, all in the same scooter gang. How that will factor into the competition is yet to be determined — but there’s not question that competition is better off with a healthy dose of camaraderie.

“The real competition is about surviving Bali,” suggest Hawaii’s Kai Barger. “Between the Bali-belly, the scooters and the nights out in Kuta, this might just come down to the last man standing.”

The gang’s just returned from a wild, hell-ride to Dunkin Donuts and, although there were pulled over and shaken down by local cops, they all managed to survive. So far.

But the night is young.

“Hey, if we hurry we can probably make it up to Uluwatu for sunset,” suggests Seabass, who is simultaneously scarfing down hot donuts and shooting the contest director with his BB-gun.

The crew all glance up at the rapidly falling sun, mentally gauging the wind and swell for tomorrow’s potential heats.

“Nah, I think might turn in early tonight,” says Aussie {{{Lincoln}}} Taylor, echoing the group’s general consensus.

Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money. Especially to an 18 year old.

So then the groms start having a competition over who can woof down the most dinner and get off to bed the fastest.

[Stay tuned for more news from the Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge, or log onto OakleyProJunior.com for profiles, results and daily video updates.]

The Oakley Pro Junior Global Challenge qualifiers:

AUSTRALIA
1. Lincoln Taylor (QLD)
2. Mitch Crews (QLD)

SOUTH AFRICA
1. Shaun Joubert (SAF)
2. Nick Godfrey (SAF)

USA
1. Sebastian Zietz (HI)
2. Jason Harris (USA)

BRAZIL
1. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
2. Franklin Serpa (BRA)

JAPAN
1. Keito Matsuoka (JPN)
2. Kaito Ohashi (JPN)

FRANCE
1. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
2. Marc Lacomare (FRA)

WILDCARDS
1.Dusty Payne (HI)
2.Yuki Seedwell (IDN)
3.Romain Cloitre (FRA)
4.Billy Stairmand (NZ)
5.Kai Barger (HI)
6.Garut Made Widiarta (IDN) *from Bali Trials

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