Thirteen-year-old dynamo Zahli Kelly from Cabarita (NSW) squeezed past 16-year-old Hawaiian surfer Summer Macedo by a tenth of a point to claim the NIB Pro Junior women's title.
Kelly, who drew the WSL wildcard for the event today, is racking up extensive kilometers on the stretch of Pacific Highway between Cabarita and Newcastle. In late January, she took out the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Wildcard Trials to claim a spot in the Anditi Women's Pro that gets underway at Merewether beach on February 20. Here, she'll come up against Championship Tour world No. 5 Johanne Defay in the Round of 48.
And while she'll be back up the Pacific Highway early tomorrow morning, she'll be back in Newcastle next Friday as part of the Cabarita team contesting the Australian Boardriders Battle next weekend at Newcastle beach.
Kelly won the wildcard into this year's Roxy Pro Trials after becoming the 2016 Queensland Junior champion last August at Duranbah. Today she added to her impressive run of titles which include the 2016 Queensland Open Championship and a second place finish in the 2016 U/18 Australian Titles.
The distance education student, whose coach is former dual world junior champion James "Taipan" Wood, cites Brazilian Filipe Toledo as her favorite surfer. She was elated about today's win.
"I feel a bit surprised. I can't believe I won and thought I left my run a bit late in the Final. I got my two best waves in the last eight minutes. I'm heaps happy to get the wildcard into the Anditi Womens Pro," Kelly said.
And Kelly has 2000 reasons to be heaps happy. Because for the very first time in Australasian Pro Junior surfing, the prize money for the winner stumped up by event sponsor, NIB, was the same for the junior women as it was for the junior men.
Liam O'Brien from Burleigh Heads took out the Pro Junior for men. Like Zahli Kelly, O'Brien also won a wildcard into the Quiksilver Pro Trials set down for next month on the Gold Coast after winning the 2016 Queensland Junior State Title.
O'Brien also pocketed $2000 after edging out the first Indonesian to ever win a Quiksilver Young Guns event, Rio Waida, by little more than half a point.
But O'Brien was a tad anxious waiting for the final scores from judges to drop.
"I was a bit nervous, they were deliberating for a little while, so I wasn't quite sure if I had it. But I am really happy to end up with the result," O'Brien said.
O'Brien claimed modestly that he hasn't done that well in the past despite the Queensland Junior Championship trophy sitting on his mantlepiece. He did, however, make the Quarters in a Gold Coast Pro Junior last year. He said today's NIB win, however, provided the sweetest victory of his career to date.
"That's my best by far. I've never won one (a Pro Junior). That's my inaugural win," he said.
O'Brien, who has deferred university admission to give pro surfing a real shot over the next couple of years, is aiming for a top four finish in the Pro Junior series.
"The top four get to qualify for the world juniors. That win's going to be really helpful to try and get there. Obviously the field's pretty tough and it's going to be a long way but I'm stoked to take a win," he said.