Champions crowned at Taj’s Small Fries in Yallingup, WA
Published on 22/01/2024

In a triumphant conclusion to the 19th Taj’s Small Fries, eight exceptional young champions have left their mark on Western Australia’s prestigious junior surfing event, claiming victory in the first marquee tournament of 2024.

Taj’s Small Fries presented by Board Store signed off in style, after an exhilarating four-day showcase, featuring 113 heats and an abundance of grommet froth. Competition wrapped up on Sunday at Shallows, where 1-3ft waves provided the ideal canvas for event finalists to display their skills in hopes of joining the illustrious list of past winners, including Jack Robinson, Soli Bailey, Ryan CallinanReef Heazlewood, Felicity Palmateer, Jacob Willcox, and Bronte Macaulay just to name a few.

The 19th edition of Taj’s Small Fries featured 178 competitors, with finals day webcast for the very first time, allowing surf fans across the planet the opportunity to tune into the amazing action as it unfolded live.

Surfing icon and event host Taj Burrow said: “I couldn’t be happier right now, this was definitely the trickiest forecast we’ve had to deal with, but it was impressive to see how everyone tackled the conditions over the past four days. Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who has supported the event over all these years and make it one of the best in the country.”

Landen Smales (Noosa, QLD) secured victory in the U18 Boys final, triumphing over Sol Gruendling (Freshwater, NSW) in an exciting matchup that saw Smales drop an impressive two-wave total of 15.58 (out of a possible 20), that included an 8.00 and 7.58. The reigning Australian Indigenous Champion was rock solid throughout the event and was thrilled to claim his maiden Taj’s Small Fries victory.

“I’m a Ballardong Noongar man and my mob is from around these parts, so it’s epic to be back on country and get  the 10,000 points,” Smales said.

“I’ve had the best time over here with my brother and thanks to Taj and all the sponsors and my sponsors for an amazing event.”

Ziggy Mackenzie (Bilinga, QLD) continued her recent run of success by claiming victory in the U18 Girls final. Mackenzie was in eye-catching form all event and kicked off her year with her first Taj’s Small Fries win, finishing with a combined total of 12.23 (out of a possible 20), which included a heat high 7.18 (out of a possible 10).

Mackenzie was last year’s U16 Australian Champion and mastered the windy afternoon conditions to take down the top seeded Milla Brown (Newport, NSW).

“Taj’s Small Fries is an amazing comp, a couple of the days were pretty tricky which makes this win even more special,” Mackenzie said.

“WA is so beautiful and Taj and all the crew behind the scenes put on an amazing event.”

Jesse Fergusson (Sunshine Beach, QLD) was one of the standout surfers of the event and capped off his first trip to Western Australia with a win in the U6 Boys final. Fergusson overcame Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW), with some lightening fast back hand surfing that saw him post a two-wave total of 14.55 (out of a possible 20), with an excellent 8.25.

“I’m really happy to take the win and I’ve had a lot of great experiences here in WA,” Fergusson said.

“This is by far my biggest win and it’s so good to surf man-on-man heats, thanks to Taj for putting on such a sick event.”

Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW) emerged victorious in the U16 Girls division, displaying her smooth but powerful style on her way to defeating Grace Cook (Cowaramup, WA). Darragh was one of the most consistent surfers of the event and kept that momentum rolling through to the finals where she dropped an excellent 8.13 and backed it up with a 6.25, finishing with a two-wave total of 14.38 (out of a possible 20).

“It’s definitely one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had and it was my goal to take it out as soon as I heard about the event,” said Darragh. “Sally Fitzgibbons lives around where I’m from and I get to surf with her sometimes and I draw a lot of inspiration from her. I’ve had the best time here in WA.”

Jasper Glossop (Bali, IND) triumphed in a hotly contested U14 Boys final, with his dynamic goofy-footed prowess on show against Ethan Anderson (Cowaramup, WA). Glossop’s forehand attack earned him a combined total of 13.68 (out of a possible 20), and left Anderson chasing a 7.6 for the win.

“I’m so excited and I’ll bring definitely be bringing some more of my Balinese friends back next year,” Glossop said.

“My dad is from WA and my mum is Indonesian so I come down here as much as I can and the Small Fries is my favourite event of the year.”

Evie Wilson (Sunshine Coast, QLD) was another eye-catching surfer en route to the final, capping off her maiden trip to Western Australia with a win the U14 Girls final over close friend Miller-May Berg (Sunshine Coast, QLD). Wilson found the best waves in the final and threw plenty of spray on each turn, posting a combined total of 12.63 (out of a possible 20), leaving Berg chasing a 6.39 when the siren sounded.

“This is probably the best comp I’ve ever surfed in and I’ll definitely be back next year. It’s been a great trip over here, WA is such a beautiful state,” Wilson said.

Darcy Gee (Dunsborough, WA) secured his first Taj’s Small Fries win with victory in the U12 Boys final. Gee battled it out with fellow West Australian Ollie Holmes (Dunsborough, WA), with the two 10-year-old’s surfing with a maturity beyond their years as Gee dropped a two-wave total of 12.63 (out of a possible 20). 

“I’m so happy right now and thanks to everyone that made this such a fun comp. I love surfing at Shallows and thanks to my parents and Chappy my shaper for all their help,” Gee said.

Ily Fraser (Margaret River, WA) went back-to-back at Taj’s Small Fires, securing consecutive wins in the U12 Girls division. Fraser used her local knowledge to take down Estella Carbonelli (Jan Juc, VIC), with great wave selection and quality manoeuvres to post a two-wave total of 13.43 (out of a possible 20).

“Thanks to everyone for such a great event, it’s the best way to start the year,” said Fraser. “I love competing and having all my friends come over and stay with us, it’s been unreal.”

Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW), Evie Wilson (Sunshine Coast, QLD), and Ollie Holmes (Dunsborough, WA) were awarded the Mayhem Performance Awards, scoring a brand new custom surfboard thanks to Lost Surfboards Australia.

Luna Thomas (Margaret River, WA), Lulu Wilson (Dunsborough, WA), Jye Edmonds (Dunsborough, WA) and Zenn Hammond (Gracetown, WA) all received Globe encouragement awards, with Ace Flynn (Cowaramup, WA) taking out the Catch Surf beach bum award.

The 19th Taj’s Small Fries kicked off Surfing WA’s events calendar for 2024 in fine fashion. This year’s event saw more surfers than ever before compete across four days of competition, with finals day webcast for the first time via www.streamer.com.au.

Surfing WA Events Manager Justin Majeks said: “Despite a tricky forecast and some testing conditions, I’m thrilled with how the everything went. Thanks to Taj, all the staff and officials, sponsors and supporters for another amazing Taj’s Small Fries. We’re already planning some big things for the 20th anniversary of the event next year.”

19th Taj’s Small Fries Final Results:

Under 12 Girls
Champion: Ily Fraser (Margaret River, WA) – 13.43
Runner Up: Estella Carbonelli (Jan Juc, VIC) – 10.38

Under 12 Boys
Champion: Darcy Gee (Dunsborough, WA) – 12.63
Runner Up: Ollie Holmes (Dunsborough, WA) – 10.51

Under 14 Girls
​Champion: Evie Wilson (Sunshine Coast, QLD) – 12.63
Runner Up: Miller May-Berg (Sunshine Coast, QLD) – 11.05

Under 14 Boys
Champion: Jasper Glossop (Bali, IND) – 13.68
Runner Up: Ethan Anderson (Cowaramup, WA) – 12.08

Under 16 Girls
Champion: Lucy Darragh (Gerringong, NSW) – 14.38
Runner Up: Grace Cook (Cowaramup, WA) – 7.70

Under 16 Boys
Champion: Jesse Fergusson (Sunshine Coast, QLD) – 14.55
Runner Up: Ocean Lancaster (Merewether, NSW) – 9.05

Under 18 Girls
Champion: Ziggy Mackenzie (Bilinga, QLD) – 12.23 
Runner Up: Milla Brown (Newport, NSW) – 5.33

Under 18 Boys
Champion: Landen Smales (Noosa, QLD) – 15.58
Runner Up: Sol Gruendling (Freshwater, NSW) – 14.11

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.

Past Small Fries winners include 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).

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