By IAN MONAGHAN
AT THE tender age of 18, James Wood can lay claim to not one, but two world titles.
The Lennox Head surfer yesterday took out the Quiksilver ISA Under-18 World Junior Championship on the exotic Polynesian island of Tahiti.
It adds to the Under-16 world title Wood claimed back in 2002.
The teenager who has been honing in the skills in the world-class point waves of his hometown had to surf a total of seven heats in the rivermouth beachbreaks of Papenoo before annexing his world championship crown.
In the final he beat emerging US star Jeremy Johnston, 2003 runner-up William Cardoso (Brazil) and reigning champion and fellow Aussie, Ben Dunn.
The natural footer established an early lead in the 25-minute final, picking off a series of good scoring rides and executing clean, fast backhand maneuvers, while all three of his opponents struggled to find any sense of rhythm in the peaky conditions.
When the final hooter sounded, Wood thrust both fists into the air with joy and fell from his surfboard into the water as a deafening roar exploded from his Australian team mates and friends watching from shore.
The final two-wave combined heat score for Wood of 12.87 was just less than two points ahead of Johnston (11.34) and well clear of Cardoso (8.74) and Dunn (6.32).
"I can't even explain how good it feels to win," explained Wood afterwards, draped in the Australian flag. "When I came to Tahiti my goal was just to survive to the final day and now this. It's the best result I've ever had, I'm just so stoked."
"Before I paddled out my plan was to get a good, quick wave under my belt and sit away from the other guys and it worked. No one really caught a wave for like 10 minutes, there wasn't much going on, but surfing can be lucky like that. Sometimes luck goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. That was a close one and today I got lucky."
He capped off a big finals day for the Aussies, with Kingscliff's Stephanie Gilmore winning the Under-18 girls' final and Matt Wilkinson the Under-16 boys'.