Cabarita junior conquers South Africa
CABARITA'S rising star Sophia Fulton has dominated the South African leg of the World Surf League's World Qualifying Series.
Fulton won two WQS events, was runner-up in another and semi-finalist from four competitions entered.
It's an impressive run against some of the world's best young female competitors, including Hawaii's latest rising star Zoe McDougal, who bagged two titles but had to be content with second place twice against Fulton.
Fulton, who was last year's NSW State Open Champion, kicked off her South African campaign with a win at the Vans Surf Pro Classic held at Lambert's Bay on the Western Cape of South Africa in June.
Fulton claimed the women's final held in pumping 1.5m waves at Yo-Yo's at Lambert's Bay on Sunday. Fulton delivered at least one excellent range score in every heat in the QS1000 women's event, and opened her account in the final with a 9.17 on a long lefthander.
Zoe McDougall mounted a great comeback with 7.50 in the final minute, but Fulton added an 8.50 after going left on the same wave to secure the victory.
Fulton then continued to impress in other South African events with a third place to winner McDougall in the Volkswagen Open and a semi-finalist at the Cape Town Surf Pro also won by McDougal.
However, Fulton turned the tables by evening up the score against McDougall and winning the Ballito Pro, jumping 16 places on the WSQ ratings to 33rd.
Fulton claimed the title at Willard Beach against an all-international final in inconsistent, shoulder-high waves and stiff cross-winds.
That marked Fulton's second World Surf League (WSL) QS 1000-rated event win. The teenager, ranked third on the WSL Australia junior women's rankings, had spent a month in South Africa, starting her first overseas trip with a win on the West Coast and ending it in style with her Ballito title.
"It's been great in South Africa, I won the Van Surf Pro Classic in Lambert's Bay and now the Ballito, so it was good to finish it off with a win and head home,” Fulton said.
McDougal was gracious in defeat commending Sophia's win.
"I'm really happy for Sophia, she was surfing really well. It was a long day, we surfed five heats, so it was an endurance test,” she said.
Fulton's semi-final win over fellow Australian Pacha Light was a tighter duel, with the eventual champion prevailing with a 10.16 score versus a 9.50.
"That was so much fun!,” Light said.
"Sophia is such a good surfer so it's nice to compete with her. I'm so happy, it's just been amazing to be able to get this far in a QS1 000, which I only started to enter this year, so it was an amazing experience.
"It's been so much fun in South Africa, just meeting new people and staying with great friends, it's been a blast.”
Fulton will be joined by her coach and 1990 world champion Pam Burridge, when she heads to California for the Super Girl Pro 6000 at Oceanside. Burridge said the determined young surfer was a dream to coach, and always tried to apply all points the pair work on.
"Even if it's hard, she will try to complete the task and be dissatisfied with herself if she falls short. That dedication matched with her talent, she should go far,” Burridge said.
"Sophia wants to qualify for the CT and be world champ. It's a hard slog to achieve that dream but at 15, she's on track.”