GALLERY: Sylvester through to second round of Surfest Pro Junior  

MEREWETHER’S Jake Sylvester was relieved just to get through his first heat on Friday as he aims for a second Surfest Pro Junior title on his home break.

 The 19-year-old won the 2010 title but had a shock first-heat exit last year.

Sylvester hit the water for the first time yesterday in the round of 64 and led early in tricky 1.8-metre waves.

He dropped to second behind Brazilian Gabriel Farias, who eventually won the heat with 13.25.

 Sylvester comfortably held second position, finishing with   a total of 12.25 to advance to the round of 32 today.

‘‘I surfed pretty average but I was just happy to get a couple of waves and get through the first round,’’ Sylvester said.

‘‘Last year was pretty unfortunate. I had a shocker with a first-round knockout so I guess this year I was just happy to get the first heat out of the way.

‘‘I probably didn’t pick the best waves today but it was just good to get it out of the way and hopefully I’ll get a couple of nice waves tomorrow and put it together better.’’

Sylvester, fifth in the Australasia Pro Junior Series rankings last year, was keen to hit back after an early exit at the four-star Burleigh Pro last week.

Victory at Surfest would  boost his ranking as he eyes a top-five finish in the juniors, which  would  secure a place in Australia’s team for the world junior championships.

Sylvester, who has a wildcard into  the Surfest Men’s Pro starting on Monday, and Caves Beach’s James McMorland were the local survivors yesterday.

Jack Scollard (Lake Munmorah), Kurtis Herman (Anna Bay) and Jackson Baker (Merewether) were all round-of-64 casualties.

Baker, 16, was unlucky in his heat, losing a fin then time coming to shore to grab a replacement board.

The event’s top seeds entered the draw yesterday and shone. Cronulla goofy-footer Connor O’Leary  was one of the standouts in the right-hand breaks on offer.

Japan’s Arashi Kato posted the day’s highest score with a  15.25. 

 The round of 48 was completed in the women’s competition with Hawaiian Tatiana Weston-Webb producing  a  standout score of 17.85.

The top seeds, including Australian world junior champion Nikki van Dijk, start their campaigns today.

More than 200 surfers from countries including Brazil, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, France, Italy, Indonesia and Peru are taking part in the  men’s and women’s pro juniors.

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