SEMI FINALISTS DECIDED ON A TESTING DAY OF COMPETITION AT THE 19th TAJ’S SMALL FRIES IN YALLINGUP
Published on 21/01/2024

The third day of the 19th Taj’s Small Fries presented by Board.Store returned to the picturesque Honeycombs Beach south of Yallingup, with Australia’s newest generation of surfing stars showcasing their exceptional talent even in the toughest of conditions.

The tricky run of small summer surf continued, but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm and performance level of the surfers who went all out in hopes of reaching the semi finals of WA’s biggest, best and most prestigious junior surfing event.

An overnight drop in swell forced the event to go mobile after an exceptional day of surfing at Shallows, which has become the spiritual home of Small Fries. Surfers had to adapt quickly from reef break to beach break in hopes of reaching finals day.

Clean early morning conditions were soon replaced by windswept wedges, which made the going tough as surfers battled each other and the ocean on a testing day of competition surfing.

In the blue ribbon Under-18 Boys division, Okie Fraser (Margaret River, WA) drew from his local knowledge to find some diamonds in the rough and post a two-wave total of 11.78 (from a possible 20).

“I got pretty lucky out there, it is a little bit grindy but I just managed to find two fun lefts and fit a couple of turns in,” said Fraser. “I’ve never done a man-on-man heat so I’m pretty excited about that.”

Fraser will take on Queenslander Landen Smales who took to the air and used his long limbs to his advantage, moving into finals day in style. 

“There wasn’t many good ones out there, but I managed to get through which feels good,” said Smales. “It’s great to make it to the man-on-man heats, I love it so much and just having one person hated worry about makes it a lot less stressful.”

Sol Gruendling (Freshwater, NSW) will take on Will Martin (Coolangatta, QLD) in semi final two. Martin is competing in his second Taj’s Small Fries, after securing a runner-up finish in Under-10 Boys division back in 2018. Six years on Martin is thrilled to be through to the man-on-man stage of the event.

​“Yeah the man-on-man concept is pretty sick, I’m stoked that brought you’ve brought that back at this event,” said Martin. “I’ve only ever surfed one other heat with one other person so I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Under-18 Girls semi finals will also be a visual spectacular with two West Australian’s still in the mix, with Margaret River duo Ruby Berry and Kaleisha Launders set to fly the flag for WA against quality opposition in Milla Brown (Newport, NSW) and Ziggy Mackenzie (Balinga, QLD).  

​“I just let my surfing do the talking and just have fun no matter what, I don’t worry about the result and just try to have fun with my mates,” said the top rated surfer Milla Brown. “I’ve just got back from Hawaii so to go from surfing 8 foot Pipe to surfing this has been hard, but you gotta learn how to surf all conditions if you wanna like make it a professional thing so it’s still pretty fun.”  

Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW), Leila Fraser (Margaret River, WA), Grace Cook (Cowaramup, WA) and Meika Locke (Palm Beach, QLD) confirmed their place in the Under-16 Girls semi finals with some strong surfing. While, Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW), Hunter Andersson (Palm Beach, QLD), Jesse Fergusson (Sunshine Beach, QLD) and Taj Air (Thirroul, NSW) are the final four surfers left in contention in the Under-16 Boys.

Taj Air (Thirroul, NSW), claimed the Nixon Play of the Day, for massive air reverse in the dying moments of the day.

As anticipation builds for finals day tomorrow, Taj’s Small Fries will surely deliver more thrills, spills, and exceptional surfing against the backdrop of the stunning Yallingup. Stay tuned for the grand finale results.

You can keep up to date with all the action by following Surfing WA’s social media platforms or by checking out www.surfingwa.com.au and finals day will be webcast via www.streamer.com.au

And remember, as you ride the waves of excitement, ditch the distractions on the road – #NoTxtNoWrecks.

About Taj’s Small Fries Yallingup:
Taj’s Small Fries, WA’s biggest, best, and most prestigious junior surfing event, celebrating it’s 19th year in 2024. Named after surfing legend Taj Burrow, the event has been a key stepping stone on Surfing WA’s development pathway since first running in 2006. Each year Yallingup attracts some of the best junior surfing talent from across Australasia for an annual celebration of surf culture and competition. 

Jack Robinson (Margaret River, WA), Bronte Macaulay (Gracetown, WA), Jacob Willcox (Margaret River, WA), Soli Bailey (Byron Bay, NSW), Kael Walsh (Yallingup, WA), Ryan Callinan (Newcastle, NSW), Mia McCarthy (Margaret River, WA), Kai Hing (Sunshine Coast, QLD), Reef Heazlewood (Caloundra, QLD), Felicity Palmateer (Margaret River, WA) and Zahli Kelly (Tweed Coast, NSW), are just a few of the surfers to have captured Small Fries victories in the past as youngsters.

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