Pumping waves greet groms at 17th Taj's Small Fries | Photos

Pumping summer surf, a record field of entrants, combined with amazing displays of courage and resilience made the 17th edition of Taj's Small Fries at Yallingup, one of the best yet.

A building swell and strong afternoon winds made for a gripping finish to the prestigious junior competition, with maxing waves crashing into the reef at Shallows.

Conditions kept competitors looking towards the horizon and parents on their toes as Mother Nature saved her best until last.

Former World Championship Tour competitor Taj Burrow was in the water and on the beach all day cheering on his little chargers who impressed in waves three to four times over their heads.

"We had a look early in the morning and the swell wasn't quite there yet for some of the other spots," said Burrow.

"This is definitely the biggest Shallows we've ever surfed, and the swell has got progressively bigger. I'm so proud of the kids for getting out there and well done to all the winners and finalists."

Yallingup local Otis North dominated on home turf, taking down good friend Macklin Flynn (Cowaramup), in an aerial shootout in the blue ribbon 16 & Under Boys final.

North's powerful and progressive style fitted in perfectly to the running right handers on offer, posting a combined total of 16.35 (from a possible 20), with two excellent scores coming from his fast and fluid manoeuvres.

Despite some great surfing of his own, Macklin Flynn was left chasing an 9.35 (from a possible 10) to snatch the win.

"Thanks to Taj and everyone involved," said North. "It was great to share a final with Macklin and the rights were really fun."

The 16 & Under Girls division finished with a bang, as Willow Hardy (Margaret River) captured her final Small Fries title with a win ahead of some of WA's best young female surfers.

Hardy used impeccable wave selection to pick off the best two waves of the final and blew them to pieces with a great array of forehand turns, locking in a heat high 8.00 (from a possible 10) and backed it up with a 7.50 to finish on 15.50 (from a possible 20).

Augusta's Ruby Berry finished in second on 11.95, Denmark's Isi Campbell posted a competitive 11.25 two-wave total, with Olive Hardy finishing in fourth on 7.60.

"This has always been my favourite event and I'm a little sad this will be my last one," said Hardy.

"The groms were charging, I don't think I would have paddled out there if I was ten."

The 14 & Under Boys final was an all-star shootout featuring four of the best surfers of the event all in contention. Maverick Wilson (Dunsborough) captured back-to-back wins in the 14 & Under Boys division, with an series of flashy turns and buzzer beating scores to finish on a combined total of 15.85 (from a possible 20).

Wilson was pushed all the way by Sid Englert (Gracetown), Jetaya Hammond (Gracetown) and Okie Fraser (Margaret River, WA), who finished second, third and fourth respectively.

"It was pretty heavy out there," said Wilson.

"The waves were really hard to catch, and I just knew I had to make the most of my opportunities. I couldn't hear anything or that I needed a score so I just went for it. "

Olive Hardy (Margaret River) kept the winning ways going for her family, with victory in the 14 & Under Girls final.

Hardy dominated the afternoon conditions and was too strong for Leila Fraser (Margaret River), Mia Jacobs (Mandurah) and Grace Cook (Cowaramup), posting a combined total of 17.75 (from a possible 20), which included a 9.00 and 8.75.

"It's been such a fun event and it doesn't get any better than this," said Hardy. "I got to surf against my sister in the 16 & Under Girls final and I've loved every second of this comp."

The 12 & Under Boys final saw Ace Flynn (Cowaramup) stamp his authority on a division brimming with future West Australian surfing stars.

Using a smooth and sharp rail game, Martin sliced and diced his way to a popular win. Flynn scored a near-perfect 9.75 and a backup 7.60 to finish on a combined total of 17.35 (from a possible 20).

Crus Uros (Dunsborough), Crus Macdonald (Geraldton) and Cam Spencer (Dunsborough) rounded out the top four.

"It's been the best three days and I'm stoked to have won as well," said Flynn. "It was good to get some swell for finals."

Grace Cook (Cowaramup) proved she's a star on the rise, claiming back-to-back victories in the hotly contested 12 & Under Girls final.

Spearheading a crop of emerging female talent, Cook, scored a perfect 10-point ride and was able to extract the most from the waves on offer, taking down Leila Fraser (Margaret River), Isla Wroth (Mandurah) and Coco Laurie (Trigg).

"I had a little sleep before my final and I had a dream that I scored a 10!" said Cook. "It's like a dream come true, winning the final and scoring my first 10-point ride I couldn't be happier."

The 10 & Under Boys division unearthed plenty of exciting new talent, with Banjo Laurie (Trigg) amongst the bravest.

Battling the biggest waves he'd ever surfed Laurie was challenged all the way by fellow finalists Jack Bowdell (Cowaramup), Jaxon Robertson (Joondalup) and Dylan Murray (Mandurah), with just 1.35 separating first to third place.

Paige Hayward (Margaret River) won the 10 & Under Girls final, displaying Jodie Cooper like big wave prowess. The goofy-footer styled her way to a 13.55 two-wave total finishing ahead of Ily Fraser (Margaret River), Luca Jacobs (Mandurah) and Lylah Loose (Secret Harbour).

Hayward was a first time Small Fries competitor and won't be forgetting the event anytime soon.

"Thanks to all the girls and everyone cheering us on," said Hayward. "I've loved this so much."

Sid Englert (Gracetown), Paige Hayward (Margaret River) and Rhys Bulloch (Secret Harbour) all pick up custom Mayhem Surfboards for their outstanding performance efforts throughout the event.

Ace Flynn (Cowaramup) and Indie Siedmiogrodzki (City Beach) were awarded the Catch Surf specialty prizes, while Sunny Higgins (Mandurah) and Luca Waddell (Wembley Downs) picked up the Globe Encouragement awards for their great sportsmanship.

This story Pumping waves greet groms at 17th Taj's Small Fries | Photos first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.