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Saturday, January 15, 2011
Freestone and the Frenchman

Macomare threw down winning turns like this all day long, fashion-forward head gear and all.

If 20-year-old Frenchman Marc Lacomare has proven anything with his victory at the Billabong World Pro Junior Championships in North Narrabeen, Aust., it's that he is a man of supreme confidence. Not once throughout this whole ordeal did he ever looked rattled. And when countrywoman Alizee Arnaud won the women's world junior title earlier in the week, it gave him even more reason to push forward. And how else would you explain his ability to win on such a big stage while looking so ridiculous?

While true the French are know for their astute fashion sense, Lacomare took it too another level when he obliterated the competition wearing a swim cap in every heat, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Michael Phelps. Actually, Lacomare's damaged dome had to be sewed up several days prior and the latex top helped keep the stitches dry. Head wounds aside, Lacomare never bobbled, never looked "out of it" in a heat, he's a big, strong surfer bound for some kind of Jeremy Flores-inspired glory in the coming years.

"It's been a great event for me," Lacomare said afterwards. "It was a great trip to Australia and thanks to the locals too for sharing their break."

But Lacomare wasn't the only one standing tall on the podium. 18-year-old Aussie Jack Freestone won the overall ASP World Junior Title. After winning the first leg of the "tour" in Bali this past October, Freestone was the points leader going into Narrabeen, and while he finished a disappointing ninth, it was enough to put him over the top.

"It's been a mixed roller coaster of emotions watching the heats unfold," Freestone said afterwards. "Big congratulations to all of the guys. It's a dream come true. I never thought it would come true after placing 9th in this event, but I'm just so happy."

Jack Freestone feeling free as a bird now.

For the Americanos, Santa Cruz-bred Nat Young made it all the way to the final, where an obviously in-form Lacomare had the pedal pinned. In the semis Young had barely slipped past an energized Mitch Crews when he bagged a last-second wave to carry him on. After the horn blew a distraught Crews was left in the lineup punching his board and wondering where he went wrong. And in Round 4 Young was the beneficiary of an interference call that allowed him to advance. That's not to take anything away from him, you do what you have to do, but from the early onset of the final it was obvious he just didn't seem to have that I'm-wearing-a-swim-cap-and-I'm-going-to-destroy-you kind of mojo about him.

"That Final was a little slow," told Young, who found himself needing an excellent-range score in the dying minutes to overtake Lacomare. "I don't think I would have gotten the score on that last ride because I messed up at the beginning," he added about his second attempt at a last-second blitz.

If the World Juniors is an indication of what's to come in surfing, I'd say watch out for the French. Led by Jeremy Flores, currently the reigning Pipe Masters Champ, Alizee Arnaud stands as the women's world junior champ, and Lacomare continues to prove he's the real deal. Also, the young crop of Aussies coming up are going to be a force. The post Coolie-Kid generation is arriving quickly. Freestone and Crews -- who gives the best post-heat interviews ever -- are giving the Land Down Under a lot to cheer about. And speaking of the Land Down Under, in light of the devastating floods in Queensland, at the end of the contest Billabong donated $50,000 to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal and is planning on donating clothing to needy communities.

Beyond hardware and accolade, a good junior showing can serve as a career springboard. The top four finishers were awarded with seeds into the Round of 96 for all ASP PRIME events for 2011, while the top eight get seeds into the round before the last round of all 1-6 ASP Star Series events. Now that's a gift that keeps on giving.

Billabong ASP World Junior Championships Final Result:
1. Marc Lacomare (FRA) 14.00
2. Nat Young (USA) 11.50

Billabong ASP World Junior Championships Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 11.07 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.03
SF 2: Nat Young (USA) 13.60 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 13.40

Billabong ASP World Junior Championships Quarterfinals Results:
QF 1: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.00 def. Kiron Jabour (HAW) 10.37
QF 2: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 15.27 def. Charles Martin (GLP) 11.90
QF 3: Nat Young (USA) 10.83 def. Dale Staples (ZAF) 9.60
QF 4: Mitch Crews (AUS) 13.54 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.84

Billabong ASP World Junior Rankings (Top 8):
1: Jack Freestone (AUS)
2: Nat Young (USA)
3: Dale Staples (ZAF)
4: Caio Ibelli (BRA)
5: Mitch Crews (AUS)
6: Kiron Jabour (HAW)
7: Marc Lacomare (FRA)
8:Charles Martin (GLP)