As everyone started arriving the day before the start of the first Billabong Junior contest of 2001 at Sebastian Inlet in Florida, surfers and contest directors all came to the same conclusion: “Let’s do this tomorrow because we may not be able to finish after.” Due to weather fronts passing into the Atlantic Ocean, surfers on the East Coast are usually pretty accurate when it comes to surf forecasting. So as the waves went from small and fun, to smaller and fun the first day, they realized they wanted to finish before things went flat. So the contest, initially slated for March 3 and 4, finished on one day, and instead of the favored local boys dominating, Californian Dane Johnson surprised everyone by winning the 1,500 dollar first prize.
Top juniors of all ages from the mainland United States and Puerto Rico showed up and included locals Phillip Watters, Eric Taylor, Tommy O’Brien, and Justin Jones, North Carolina’s Richard and Matt Gilligan, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Toth and Gabriel Escudero, and Californian’s Nate Yeomans, Mike Losness, and Johnson. Although extra small, the waves at Sebastian are faster and more inviting for progressive surfing. Thanks to a sideways wave created as swells hit the jetty, the combination of the two creates a fast peak that gives an extra push down the line.
Early highlights, or lowlights, included young thirteen-year-old gladiator Adam Wickwire literally battling for waves and getting two interference’s and local favorite Phillip Watters losing to Toth and Johnson in the second round. As the day went on, the clean, offshore surf turned somewhat sloppy from a sideshore wind-although protected from it, the inlet still had a lot of texture. For the finals, everyone had the necessary three solid waves needed, but Johnson’s use of solid, turn combinations gave him the edge, “Just try and do as many maneuvers as I could and try to go fast and vertical and show strength in my maneuvers,” said Johnson. “I’m kinda’ shocked and really happy. Everybody else was surfing really good and it was pretty tight and I’m just thankful I came up on top.”
Although Goofyfoots Mike Losness and Bryan Toth both were surfing flawlessly all day into the final, they didn’t get the waves the earlier heats did for their very consistent and quick backside turns-they finished thrid and fourth respectively. The only local to make the final, sixteen-year-old Eric Taylor also won the only East Coast Billabong Junior in North Carolina last year. Despite frontside turns and local knowledge all day he was real close to edging Johnson and ended up in second, “I was looking forward to this contest all year and we had sort of fun waves for it, it was good,” said Taylor. “There was pretty much waves the whole heat, there weren’t super long walls or nothing and everybody was getting wave after wave and surfing good-it was really close.”
The following are the results:
1. Dane Johnson (Carlsbad, California) : $1,500
2. Eric Taylor (Vero Beach, Florida) : $800
3. Mike Losness (San Clemente, California) : $600
4. Brian Toth (Isabela, Puerto Rico) : $400
5. Justin Jones (Melbourne Beach, Florida) : $350
5. Tommy O’Brien (Melbourne Beach, Florida) : $350
7. Shane Upchurch (Oak Island, North Carolina) : $300
7. Ryan Kimmel (Locust, New Jersey) : $300