Published on 19/01/2024

The 19th Taj’s Small Fries, presented by Board.Store, heated up at Shallows in Yallingup, with an electrifying second day of competition, turning the ever-reliable surf break into a ‘holiday fun park’ for the record-breaking field of young surfers from across Australasia.

Taj’s Small Fries has solidified it’s position as a must-attend event, evolving into a rite of passage for Australia’s most promising young surfers since its debut in 2006. The rich history of the event boasts an impressive list of previous winners, including current Championship Tour surfers Jack Robinson and Jacob Willcox.

A marathon day commenced in clean 2-3 feet surf, which created a playground for the blue-ribbon Under-18 Boys and Girls divisions who hit the water first up with some unforgettable surfing setting the tone for the rest of the day.

The top seed for the Under-18 Boys Sol Gruendling (Freshwater, NSW) stamped his authority at his maiden appearance at Taj’s Small Fries, dropping a 7.88 (from a possible 10) and back it up with a 5.75, to finish on a two-wave total of 13.63 (from a possible 20). 

Gruendling was joined in the winners circle by Felix Byrnes (Merewether, NSW), Maverick Wilson (Dunsborough, WA), Fred Carmody (Bondi, NSW), Will Martin (Coolangatta, QLD), Cruz Sheridan (Margaret River, WA), Landon Smales (Noosa, QLD) and Made Balon (Bali, IND).  

Made Balon is one of a handful of Balinese surfers who adding an international flavour to the 19th Taj’s Small Fries, and Balon brought his own bottle of sambal sauce with some spicy surfing in his round one heat.  

“I feel so stoked to get a couple of good waves and yeah this is my first time to WA,” said the Legian Boardrider. “It’s a little hard for me to wear a full wetsuit because the water is so cold, but I felt pretty loose out there.”

The Under-18 Girls round one heats were equally impressive display, with some of the best young female surfers in the country strutting their stuff in Yallingup. Mia Baker (Lennox Head, NSW), Kaleisha Launders (Margaret River, WA), Jordy Halford (Currumbin, QLD), Ziggy Mackenzie (Balinga, QLD) and Ruby Berry (Margaret River, WA), all posting impressive wins.

Ziggy Mackenzie, the current Under-16 Girls Australian Champion was the best performer, dropping a two-wave combined total of 13.61 (from a possible 20), that included a 7.38 and 6.23. 

“It was pretty fun out there actually both rights and lefts and yeah there’s a lot of opportunity out there, I just got lucky and got a few good ones,” said Mackenzie. “I was in Hawaii before this, so pretty different conditions, I haven’t really surfed anything like this since the Aussie’s but it’s good to grind out a few turns, I’m glad to be here at my first Taj’s Small Fries so yeah I’m stoked.”

As the afternoon rolled in, the Under-16 Girls and Under-16 Boys took centre stage, with some amazing surfing shinning through the blaring West Australian glare. The future of Australian surfing was on show as Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW), Gidget Kowalski (Kirra, QLD), Kalani Catto (Geraldton, WA), Mia Jacobs (Gracetown, WA), Rosie Gillet (Dunsborough, WA) and Grace Cook (Cowaramup, WA) all posted impressive round one heat wins. 

While, Jack Bulloch (Secret Harbour, WA), Lachlan Arghyros (Kingscliff, NSW), Max McGillivary (Evans Head, NSW), Rajo Barrel (Lakey Peak, IND), Hunter Andersson (Palm Beach, QLD) and Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW) were the standout surfers in the opening round of the Under-16 Boys.

Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW) claimed the Nixon Play of the Day, posting the highest two wave combined total of day one with a 16.33 (from a possible 20), which included a 9.0 and a 7.33. 

Small and clean conditions are forecasted to continue tomorrow, with competition set to continue somewhere in Yallingup from 7:00am sharp. Stay tuned for more thrills, spills, and unforgettable waves at Taj’s Small Fries, where the next generation of surf stars will leave an indelible mark on the shores of Yallingup.

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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