THE former coach of Laura Poncini suggests the talented teenager could trouble the world's best surfers if she gets a wildcard entry into the Breaka Burleigh Pro.
The 14-year-old is leading the professional competition's Win a Wildcard promotion, which started early last month.
And if the Moffat Beach goofy-footer does claim a berth in the ASP 6-Star women's event, she could cause quite a stir, according to renowned Sunshine Coast surfing mentor Ian Portingale.
"She could surprise everyone," he said.
"If the surf is that little bit small or inconsistent and there's a touch of luck in it, she could quite easily sneak through a few heats."
Portingale believes the diminutive prospect is emerging as a genuine threat in the surf.
"She hasn't fully developed yet but she's definitely got some really nice moves and she has a supportive family which means she's going to have some good training along the way," he said.
"And the fact that she is willing to learn; that's one of the biggest things. She's the type of person who is happy to improve all aspects and with that attitude she can go a long way."
Poncini featured in the under-14-and under-16 national finals of the Rip Curl Grom Search at Coolum Beach last month. She also claimed victory in the All-Stars schools division at the Australian Junior Surfing Titles in Tasmania, alongside fellow Sunshine Coast surfer Sophie McCulloch.
"She hasn't got that power at the moment because she's still only young and quite small and frail. But she knows where she needs to put the board and as she keeps developing she'll put more power into it," Portingale said.
Portingale believed Poncini could be a real contender if she claimed a spot in the event, especially if it is moved to the smaller surf of Burleigh's beach breaks.
"Burleigh itself can be a top-to-bottom barrelling wave from take-off to finish, a 200m barrel, sucking sand," he said.
"It's the classic kind of surf. They used to say if you can't get tubes at Burleigh you're never going to get tubes in your life.
"If the surf is pumping a bit she might find herself a few points short, (but) if everything falls her way and it's inconsistent and a little bit small, she's contest-savvy enough and has got the moves to probably sneak through.
"I'm sure people like (Buderim surfer) Dimity Stoyle are among those she has looked up to, so just to come up against them will be a good experience for her."
Poncini, now coached by Gold Coast's Mark Richardson, is one of three still in the running for the women's Win a Wildcard spot. The others are Hollie-Sue Coffey and Lucy Callister.
Meanwhile, Coolum Beach's Kelly Norris, 17, is leading the men's standings, ahead of Nick Callister and Eli Jacobs.
"It's a really good opportunity for Kelly and I to get into the contest and test our skills," Poncini said.
"It would be so good to compete. It would really push our surfing and would set us up and give us a good start to the year."
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