ON THE RISE: Walters into top five on junior tour
SURFING: Angourie wunderkind and aspiring world tour surfer Dakoda Walters has stormed into the top five juniors in the world.
Walters pulled out all the stops to reach his first final on the World Surf League's Pro Junior Tour as he finished runner-up in the Key Sun Zinke Sydney Pro Junior event.
Carving through the small surf at Manly, Walters toughed it out in the early rounds before breezing through an all-Australian quarter-final.
But it was in the semi-finals where the Billabong Bloodlines rider electrified the competition, pulling out a single wave score of 9.25 (out of 10). But he had to wait for his opportunity.
Walters would back it up with a handy 6.95 wave score, to produce a heat total of 16.20 which only narrowly saw off rival Joel Vaughn (16.15).
"(I wasn't sure of the final) until I saw the semi scores drop,” Walters said.
"In my semi-final one guy had a 7.5 and an 8.6 in the first three minutes so I thought he'd probably take one qualifying spot then another guy got a pair of 8s and I was left waiting.
"Knowing I needed two really good scores I waited about 15 minutes of the 25-minute heat before getting my first wave. Lucky I got a good one and got a 9.2 and backed it up pretty quickly with a 6 something to put me into second.
"All four of us in that semi had a heat total of 16-point-something out of 20, so until the heat finished anything could have happened.”
Walters came up against stiff competition in the final, including French rising star Kyllian Guerin and eventual winner Alister Reginato.
"It was my first pro junior final, but I felt good going into (it),” he said. "Alister, who ended up winning, got a nine right at the start of the final. I got a 7-something on my first wave doing one air.
"With the final being half hour, I knew I had plenty of time to catch up and take the lead.
"I got a few more sevens in the final but fell on a good turn to air that might have got me into first. I really wanted to win but I was happy just making a final and getting a few points to get my year going.”
Walters had struggled for consistency on the junior tour this season with a 17th-place finish at Stradbroke Island followed by a 33rd at Lake Macquarie.
It is his first full year on the tour after getting an early taste with sporadic events in 2017 and 2018.
Walters' next event is likely to be the Hydralyte Sports NSW Pro Junior, at Cronulla on April 27-28.