Keely Andrew.
Keely Andrew. KARI BOURNE

Surfer Keely can be the best

PROMINENT surfing coach Ian Portingale is convinced talented teenager Keely Andrew has what it takes to make an impression on the ASP Women's World Tour.

The Mooloolaba prospect (pictured), who claimed seventh place in a red-hot field at the ISA World Junior Championships in Panama yesterday, was only welcomed into Team Australia as a late replacement for young gun Nikki van Dijk.

But she made the most of her opportunity, impressing judges with some of the highest heat scores of the competition.

And while her performance may have shocked some observers, it certainly didn't surprise her coach who believes the 17-year-old is capable of taking the sport by storm.

"She can definitely go all the way," he said.

"She's got the ability and she's got the competitiveness in her.

"The technique she's developing is so strong. All the commentators watching the world championships talked about how well she executed her bottom turns, her re-entries and all those kinds of things.

"She's always been a super-fit person so at this stage the next thing is to get that bit more experience under her belt."

AND Portingale believes we have only witnessed a glimpse of Andrew's potential.

"If you can't do the turns you're not going to get the points. She can do that and that's her benefit - now she's just got to learn the game," he said.

"It's the maturity and the high-level competition that she needs to hone in on.

"In the rounds which she lost (qualifying round four and then repechage round nine), that's something that stood out to me. Her game plan just seemed to be a little bit wrong and in that kind of field it was all over.

"That will come with time."

Portingale said the Matthew Flinders Anglican College student was likely to focus on finishing her schooling before tackling the Junior Pro and Qualifying Series events in earnest next year.

"This event came unexpectedly and she was undecided about whether to go because Year 12 is so important to her," he said of the Northshore Boardriders Club member.

"She's following other good (Sunshine Coast) role models like Bridget McCulloch and Sophie Callister. They had their Year 12s last year but this year they are surfing more and are starting to shine.

"Next year she really wants to go full tilt."

A relatively late bloomer, Andrew first burst on to the surfing scene as a 16-year-old when she finished second at the under-18 national championships.

She has since defeated the likes of Sofia Mulanovich, who is currently ninth in the race for the ASP women's world title, and last year's ASP world junior number two Phillippa Anderson.

Portingale said it had been a rapid rise through the ranks from Andrew, who had previously been a talented cricket player.

"Three years ago, the school state titles shifted from the Gold Coast to Alex and she was catching the inside waves.

So she's come from catching the inside waves to smashing it at the top level," he said.

Fellow Sunshine Coast surfers Eli Steele and Kai Hing also competed at the World Junior Championships.

Reigning national under-18 champion Steele finished 13th after surviving a series of do-or-die repechage rounds while Hing claimed 17th place in the under-16 division.

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