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Newcastle surfers primed for national titles

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Newcastle surfers are well-placed to launch a serious assault on the Australian Junior Titles later in the year following a strong showing at the recent NSW championships.

The 2022 Woolworths State Junior Titles, contested at Sandon Point on the South Coast, provided challenging conditions for all.

But, it didn’t deter Novocastrian Dom Thomas and Merewether’s Felix Byrnes, who secured the under-18 and under-16 crowns respectively, and Port Stephens rival Eden Hasson, who managed to post an incredible 9.17 in the quarter-finals.

Surfing NSW judge Talina Wilson was impressed by the standard the participants showed.

“There were standouts across all divisions; and they were charging, it was epic to watch,” she said.

“The top-range excellent scores were based on fast vertical top turns combined with critical manoeuvres starting from the point and finishing at the boat ramp, that’s about a 250m ride.”

Thomas charged ahead in the under-18 semi, eliminating world junior athlete Hasson and Xavier Bryce (Northern Beaches), before a near-perfect 9.9 opening wave in the final gave him the early advantage.

His back-up of 5.45 kept him well ahead of the field, including Harley Walters (Angourie), Harry O’Brien (Lennox Head) and Hughie Vaughan (Central Coast).

In the under-16 boys, it was fellow Hunter colleague Byrnes, son of shaper Joe Byrnes, who returned home from a trip to Indonesia with renewed energy and confidence in the water.

The 14-year-old endured a tough semi against an in-form field including Cronulla’s Kash Brown.

The pair met Sol Gruendling (Northern Beaches) and Ryan Conti (South Coast) in the finals after defeating local favourite Sammy Lowe.

Byrnes and Gruendling went wave-for-wave in the decider, but it was the former who found a pair of sevens to seal his first state title.

Charli Hately (12), Dom Thomas (17), Amelie Bourke (19) and Ocean Lancaster (13) before Surfest 2022. Photo: Peter Stoop

Meanwhile, Maroubra hosted the 2022 Havaianas NSW Grommet Titles, featuring the best under-14 surfers.

And, it was Merewether’s Ocean Lancaster who prevailed in the tricky four-to-six-foot swell.

In the semi, he showed his surf maturity, waiting patiently for the set waves that he knew would give him the greatest scoring potential – and he got what he waited for, a 9.23.

That provided him with the momentum he needed heading into the final.

The Novocastrian began strong with a seven-point ride and backed it up in style with an 8.5 and sealing his maiden state championship.

Not unfamiliar with winning in 2022, the 13-year-old has also secured the Billabong Oz Grom Cup, Under-12 Rip Curl Grom Search National Finals, Sandbah Cup and the Newcastle Regional Titles.

“I’m frothing. The waves have been on – and everyone’s been ripping,” Lancaster said.

“This is my first win.

“I’ve been close a couple of times and it’s been great to be surfing with my mate Ben (Zanatta) especially out here in these conditions.”

Werri Beach’s Lucy Darragh took out the girls’ section.

In the under-12s, Locana Cullen (Avalon Beach) and Talia Tebb (Avoca Beach) claimed the titles.

The nationals will now take place at Stradbroke Island, Queensland, in November.

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