Ethan Ewing and Macy Callaghan's respective wins at the World Junior Championships in Kiama, NSW, back in January proved that Australian surfing might have a couple of future stars on its hands. Ewing's ascent has been well documented, as he went from being a relatively unknown 16-year-old with big potential, to Championship Tour qualifier in the space of about 12 months.
Callaghan's rise has been similar. In addition to her World Junior Championship win, in 2016 she rocketed from No. 78 on the Qualifying Series rankings to No. 15, and all at just 15 years old. It seems only a matter of time before she, too, breaks through to the CT.
Which begs the question: Are the two Australians the tip of a talent iceberg that can stave off the emerging surfing nations? Or are they just two teenage outliers who don't reflect the country's overall talent pool?
A quick measure of the talent pool sees it somewhere between the two extremes. In Kiama, Reef Heazlewood was the next Aussie behind Ewing, finishing with a more-than-credible fifth. He has since backed that up with a win at Cronulla in the Australasian Junior Series and a fifth place in the Kommunity Project Great Lakes Pro QS1000. With that type of form, the Sunshine Coast goofyfooter is now looking to build on his QS seed in order to make the jump to the more congested higher-rated events.
Joining him on that quest is Sandon Whittaker, a powerful goofyfooter from Avoca who counts another power-based goofy -- Ace Buchan -- as an inspiration. Whittaker won the Siargao Surfing Cup QS1500 in the Philippines last year at 16, and, with two more years in the junior ranks, he has time on his side. The same can be said for Mikey McDonagh, who, despite being just 15, currently leads the Australasian Junior Series. The naturalfooter has a mature style that reflects his time at home on the groomed runners at Lennox Head. This grommet has a huge future.
Even younger Aussie surfers, like Kyuss King, Jay Occhilupo (Mark's son), Kobi Clements, Caleb Tancred and Dakota Walters, also have world-class potential. All under 15 years old, it will be these young grommies that will now look to Ewing to see what is possible for a teenager to achieve.
Over on the women's side, the surfer deemed most likely to follow in Callaghan's footsteps is wunderkind Zahli Kelly. Just barely a teenager at age 13, she recently won her first Pro Junior Event in Newcastle, which earned her a spot in the main event, the Anditi Women's Pro QS6000. She's also received an entry into the Roxy Pro trials, giving her a realistic chance at making her first CT. Despite her inexperience, many of Australia's best coaches believe she could still do some real damage at the elite level. That's a pretty ringing endorsement for the budding young talent.
In the age groups above Zahli Kelly, Kobie Enright's fifth place at the World Junior Championship showed she, too, has incredible potential. The Tweed Heads surfer has no shortage of mentors on the Gold Coast and has a drive that comes with surfing in the the world's most competitive zone. She has a few more years left of competing on the junior circuit. If she stays on that path of progress, her dreams of making the CT are more than realistic.
While Callaghan and Ewing have set the bar incredibly high, it seems the conveyor belt of Australian surfing champions is not about to grind to a halt any time soon.
Catch Kelly surfing live against some of the top CT talents when the Anditi Women's Pro kicks off. The contest runs from February 20 - 26 in Newcastle, Australia.