Following last December's epic battle for the junior crown at Gerringong, Fraser Dovell (Avalon, NSW), Monty Tait (Maroubra, NSW), Luke Hynd (Burleigh Heads, QLD), Jacob Wilcox (Margaret River, WA) will not only be battling each other, they will be among the lead chargers desperate to fight off international young guns from Japan, the USA, South America, South Africa and Hawaii.
The number one seed in this event is Byron Bay's Soli Bailey. The 18-year-old comes to Newcastle with a growing reputation for being able to adapt to a variety of conditions.
Local hopes in the field or 96 surfers include Merewether's (NSW) Jackson Baker (pictured), who made the quarter-finals at last weekend's Hurley Pro Junior at Manly in Sydney.
James McMorland from Caves Beach (NSW) is another Hunter surfer looking to back up the sizzling form that saw him fight off a field boasting former WQS veterans in the Port Stephens Toyota trials.
For his effort, McMorland was rewarded with a wildcard into Surfest's richest event, the 6-Star Burton Toyota Pro.
McMorland is looking to build on his 2013 NSW Schools surfing title after completing his HSC and enjoying a gap year during 2014.
"The Pro Junior at Newcastle is really tough because all the really hot international guys come to compete in the 6-Star comp and while they're here they do the Pro Junior," he said.
McMorland will have to put in a stellar performance if he is to pocket the bulk of the $7000 purse on offer and join the list of previous winners of the Pro Junior at Surfest including current world tour surfers Adrian 'Ace' Buchan and Sally Fitzgibbons.
While the sponsorship market remains challenging in Australasian junior surfing, it was a group of Newcastle and Hunter-based professionals who ensured this event goes ahead.
With more than 200 ‘business surfer’ members - professionals including solicitors, accountants, HR managers and consultants - HBB has actively contributed to the surfing community for more than five years and raising money for surfing non-government-organisations during an annual breakfast auction held during Surfest.
President of the HBB, Brad Garrard said when the HBB heard that the Pro Junior needed a sponsor, the Hunter business community - many of whom would rather wear wetsuits than three-piece suits - were quick to respond.
"HBB was founded by a group of surfers, committed to enhancing business and the community through surfing," he said.
"When we heard that corporate sponsorship of the Pro Junior hadn’t been secured, we decided that investing in the future of surfing in Newcastle is precisely why HBB exists - and we are proud to be a vital part of this iconic event.”
HBB has also previously supported surfing-related not-for-profits including SurfAid and Disabled Surfers.
Surfest organiser Warren Smith said he was delighted that HBB will support the Pro Junior event.
"While corporate sponsorship remains tight in the surfing world it’s fantastic to have a local organisation that understands both business and surfing behind us," he said.
Action gets underway at Merewether beach on Friday, February 14 at 7am.
The full field for Hunter Business Boardriders Pro Junior can be found at:
Photo credit: Merewether's Jackson Baker in action - courtesy of RedMonkey.