In conditions that fluctuated from Indo dream-sequence to Huntington hoppers, Jack Freestone won his second World Junior Championship in Bali. In what became an old-fashioned grovel-off in the final, the Australian overcame one of the event’s standout performers in Ezekiel Lau for the win.
“I was nervous for the Final. Zeke has been probably the best in the event, and he’s definitely the biggest,” said Freestone. True to form, the intimidating Lau took the inside position to start the heat—as he’d done for the entire event. “I’m friendly on shore, but if you’re against me, you’re gonna feel it,” said Lau. “I’m not gonna make it easy for you.”
In the smaller surf on offer, Freestone clinched the heat on the lone bomb that came through in the Final. With an opening re-entry on the sharp Keramas bowl, a series of linked turns, and a powerful fin-flash to finish, he scored an eight. But it was in the heats leading up to the final that the Australian really left his mark on the event.
The theatrics began in his Round 4 heat with Japan’s Arashi Kato. With Keramas resembling a wave pool every bit as dreamy as anything Kelly and his team of scientists could dream up, Freestone plucked an inside nugget and stuck one of the most crisp full-rotation alley oops you’ll ever see in a contest. So clean was the landing, he went straight into a pump and tagged the inside section for a ten. “It just all came together,” grinned Freestone. “It felt great.”
In the Quarters, Freestone edged past Santa Barbara’s Conner Coffin, whose scintillating rail turns and fluent carving transitions had him as an event favorite. It was a worthy showdown, with Coffin sticking to the wave face and taking an early lead with a vicious hook in a hollowing Keramas bowl for an early eight-point score. Meanwhile, Freestone plied his near flawless punt game in the perfect breeze to keep himself in the heat. But with a shift in the wind, he was forced to adapt.
“It was tough out there. I got halfway through the heat and realized it wasn’t actually that good for airs, so I moved back to the rail,” Freestone said of his highest-scoring ride, which comprised a series of re-entries on cascading sections.
His Semifinal with Morocco’s Ranzi Boukhiam witnessed the biggest drubbing ever in a World Junior Championship event. In a bad lapse of judgment, the Moroccan spent the entire heat with priority, waiting for a set that never came. Freestone meanwhile opened with a full-blooded frontside-grab fin throw over a chandelier section for a nine, then caught runners unopposed on the inside section of the reef. With the air-wind back, he stuck a slob air-reverse and a corked full-rotation Hippie Flip (an air reverse with a Kerrupt grab, invented by Matt Meola) for a ten.
“Every wave I just kept bettering myself and I felt great. The wind and the rotation—it all just came together perfectly,” he said.
On the other side of the draw, Ezekiel Lau had put on a clinic in dominance. He accounted for the in-form Costa Rican Carlos Munoz in Round 4, racking up the highest combined total of the day with two long barrels and one of his patented layback man-hacks. The Hawaiian then showed his versatility in the Quarterfinal showdown with Australian Junior Series champ Wade Carmichael, racking up a 9.23 for a full-rotation air reverse followed by a combo of turns.
“It was the perfect wind for it. It just stuck the board to my feet,” said Zeke. In his Semifinal with Andrew Doheny, Zeke controlled the contest from the outset, taking the inside position and getting the pick of the waves. “I’ve been surfing here just before dark, getting a feel for the wave in all conditions,” said Lau. “No one has put more time in the water out here so I just had to stick to what I was doing.”
But in the Final, it was Freestone’s ability to brawl in the varied conditions on offer at Keramas that gave him the win. “To win a comp in all these kind of waves,” said Freestone, “it’s a good confidence boost as I prepare to go on the WQS.”
The result capped a successful day for Australia, with Nikki Van Dijk winning the women’s event and Freestone becoming the second Australian since Joel Parkinson, and the third surfer ever, to win dual World Junior Championships. “It’s amazing to follow in Joel Parkinson’s footsteps. He’s my favorite surfer and we’re both from Coolangatta, so it feels amazing right now,” he said. “He’s on the World Tour, and that’s where I want to be, so this gives me the confidence to know that I can get there.” —Jed Smith