Watching the national team compete at the ISA world junior championships in Brazil provided added motivation for Boat Harbour's Eden Hasson to get back in the squad next year with victory at the Australian titles.
That drive and a fearless aerial assault delivered a career highlight and first national title with a dominant display in the under-18 boys' final at Phillip Island on Sunday.
The 17-year-old natural footer won with a best two-wave total of 17.53, beating West Australian Macklin Flynn (13.08), Anna Bay's Jimmi Hill (12.98) and Victorian Willem Watson (12.73).
In small, bumpy and unpredictable surf, Hasson opened with a 7.75 from an aerial manoeuvre before taking control with an 8.33 from turns on a set wave midway through the heat. His rivals were left needing excellent scores before he gave them no hope late with a 9.2 from two airs.
"I tried an air on the first one, then the second one was turns, but the last one I felt like I relaxed a bit and just went for it," Hasson said.
"I tried an air on the first section and pulled it off, then I felt like I had nothing to lose so I went for another one at the end and made it.
"There's heaps of good aerialists in the contest so I wasn't really thinking about [airs]. I don't usually try airs in contests but this one I thought I'd let loose and try a couple and it worked out well."
The victory gave Hasson a spot on the Australian team for next year's world junior titles. He was part of the squad as an under-16 competitor in 2022 after topping the rankings the previous year. He was a quarter-finalist in the repechage of the event in El Salvador, which Victorian Willis Droomer won.
He was "stoked" to earn another shot after a knee injury in July forced him out of the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open and NSW titles, all but ending his chances of securing a world titles berth as the national points leader. He finished third after Sunday's win in the series finale.
"It was good making it in my last year of juniors," he said. "I was watching the ISAs while I was at Aussies and I was watching a couple of the guys who made it from last year. It was in Brazil and it looked so fun, so it kind of motivated me to want to make it and get there next year.
"That's my biggest win. I won the Skullcandy and the state titles but that was a couple of years ago, so I feel like I hadn't had a proper win in a while, so it was good to get another."
"I had a shocker heat in my first one and I just scraped through, then I slowly built into it. I didn't have the best start but I feel like I saved it for the end and peaked at the right time, which I was happy with.
"It was really fun but tricky conditions, really bumpy and kind of a rip bowl, sucky conditions. But it was pretty similar to home the last couple of days before I left so I had good practice, so that helped."
Hasson often surfs with Hill at Birubi Beach in Anna Bay and he said it was cool to make the final with him.
"We are pretty much next door neighbours," he said.
"We are always surfing together, pushing each other."
Hasson left school after last year to focus on surfing and his goal now was to "surf as much as possible" before the world titles. A date and venue is yet to be announced.
"I'm going to do as many of the pro junior contests as I can get to, and then the odd QS events around home, like Surfest and maybe the Central Coast ones," he said.
"Just do as many contests as I can, just to get some results.
"I've got heaps of time now just to surf and go away to comps, so it's good. I can focus on that.
"I'll try and get to [the Championship Tour] one day, just chip away at it."
Merewether's Ocean Lancaster finished second in under-16 national rankings.