WINNING SMILE: Sunshine Coast surfer Sophie McCulloch, 17, has claimed the under-18 Australian junior title at North Stradbroke Island.
WINNING SMILE: Sunshine Coast surfer Sophie McCulloch, 17, has claimed the under-18 Australian junior title at North Stradbroke Island. SURFING AUSTRALIANIKON

Sophie’s victory sets up huge 2016

THE Sunshine Coast's Sophie McCulloch says securing the under-18 crown at the Australian Junior Surfing Titles at North Stradbroke Island yesterday will provide a massive boost to her World Surf League aspirations in 2016.

The 17-year-old claimed the win in the dying minutes of the final to show she can perform under immense pressure, a virtue that will come in mighty handy during next year's Qualifying Series.

Needing a 6.5 to win, McCulloch paddled into a solid wave and did not falter, scoring a 7.5 to elevate her from third to first.

"I am extremely happy and extremely relieved that I did what I came here to do," McCulloch said.

"It was so much fun when you got waves, but it was a struggle for the first 20 minutes.

"You had to be in the right place at the right time and in all my heats I struggled to get waves early, but I was lucky enough to get the one that I needed at the end."

The win is McCulloch's maiden individual national title.

She won a team national title in 2012 in Tasmania.

A recent graduate from high school, McCulloch will turn all her attention to the 2016 Qualifying Series as she attempts to break into the Championship Tour in 2017.

She said she hoped to carry her top form into the new year.

"It is definitely a big confidence boost knowing that I can hold my own against girls all around Australia," she said.

"The plan is to compete in as many events as I can and get myself a Qualifying Series ranking.

"I just want to get as much experience as I can travelling the world and surfing different waves."

With her success yesterday, McCulloch joins an impressive group of past Australian junior winners including world champions Stephanie Gilmore, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Mark Richards, Tom Carroll and Damian Hardman.

Fellow Coast surfer Zahli Kelly won the under-14 girls' division.



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