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Deja vu at Lost Pro Juniors

August 04, 2005

Mike Sciacca

Dustin Cuizon had been there before.

For Hank Gaskell, the finals of the $10,000 Lost Pro Junior men's

competition at the Bank of the West Beach Games were new ground.

But the ending to America's largest and most prestigious junior

surfing event had an all-too-familiar feel for Cuizon.

He finished runner-up again. Just like he had in 2004. And in

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2003.

Not even a crowd-pleasing big air reverse could finally nab the

crown for Cuizon, who was outscored by Gaskell, 14.8 to 14

Gaskell, 19, was competing in the Los Pro Junior for just the

second time. He left Surf City on Monday to fly to England for his

next competition.

"Dustin and I have been competing against each other in NSSA

events since we were 10 years old," said Gaskell, who lives in Maui.

"Dustin's a great guy and a competitor who I really respect.

"I was really nervous, just hoping to get another wave that might

carry me through. I got really lucky."

The Lost Pro Junior started with 120 of the world's finest surfers

age 20 and younger, battling for a $2,500 first-place prize and

critical points toward the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' world

junior championship in Australia.

After the various rounds of competition, it was the two Hawaiian

competitors who faced off for the title.

Cuizon opened strong with a 6.67 score out of a possible 10.

Following three mediocre waves, he hit a 7.33 to move into a

comfortable lead and come within reach of his initial title.

He then launched into a big air reverse that brought cheers from

the crowd, yet it was Gaskell who scored big late to pull out the

win.

"This is my last time in the junior event, and I was hoping to win

it in my last try," Cuizon said. "I felt good out there, but I made a

few mistakes that ended up costing me. Now, I move on to the next

level."

Like the U.S. Open of Surfing, the Lost Pro Junior implemented the

World Championship Tour's man-on-man format, instead of the

four-person heats that had been used in years past.

The man-on-man format was used from the quarterfinal round through

the finals round.

The junior title is considered to be a springboard to a

professional career and has been won in the past by Kelly Slater and

Andy Irons, both of whom went on to win the U.S. Open of Surfing

men's title.

Irons won his second U.S. Open men's title on Sunday.

In the $10,000 Target Women's Junior Pro, Nikita Robb of South

Africa claimed the title.

Robb, who won $2,500 for her win, finished ahead of runner-up

Karina Petroni of Florida, third-place finisher Coco Ho of Hawaii and

fourth-place finisher Erica Hosseini of Newport Beach.

Twelve-year-old Courtney Conlogue of Santa Ana, in her first

Women's Pro Junior event, won her first two heats to advance to the

semifinal round. There, she finished third in a heat that was won by

Hosseini, with Robb finishing second.

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