Dakine ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
Friday, April 20, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama
Day 6 of the event in Panama started in a very different way than those that preceded it. With all 31 of the delegations before him, lined up in the shape of a circle, ISA president Fernando Aguerre shared some heart-felt words on the passing of David Lilienfeld, a Team South Africa bodyboarder. Lilienfeld was the victim of a shark attack in South Africa 48 hours earlier. All the participants observed a moment of silence honoring his memory.
Once competition began, heat after heat, teams watched as their medal chances rose and fell. Coming into Day 6 of competition, the defending Gold Medal team, Peru, was sitting comfortably with all of its 12 surfers still in contention, the only full team in the event. By the end of the day on Friday, eight of those surfers were out of the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong. That's how quickly and unexpectedly fortunes can shift when the best junior surfers in the world are on hand, and the waves are firing from sun-up to sun-down.
With only Repechage heats on the schedule for the day, every heat was do or die. The morning began with 116 athletes in the three divisions, and by the time the final horn had blown, just 44 remained.
Fortunately, for those who were competing today, Mother Nature sent constant opportunity for high scores and last-minute, heat-winning waves. Due to the tide high, the four-to six-foot sets were presenting long walls on which the talented array of surfers were able to put their full repertoire of maneuvers on display.
"With the high tide, if you get one in the right zone, it's a perfect, perfect bowly right or left," said Jake Halstead, a former ISA Silver Medalist, and one of two Americans fighting through the Boys Under-18 elimination round. "Coming into the Repechage, you start the grind; you've got a bunch of heats to make. I try not to worry too much, you've just got to go out there and not hold anything back."
Halstead won his heat, while his teammate, Colin Moran, also advanced into Repechage Round 7. Team USA remains in medal contention, with seven of its 12 athletes still competing.
While Peru was struggling, Hawaii and Australia situated themselves out front in the race for Team Gold and the IOC President's Trophy. The Aussies have eight athletes remaining, while the Hawaiians have nine, including Koa Smith, who won one of the most exciting heats of the day. Smith relied on fierce, gouging turns on some of the choice waves of his heat, holding off a late-heat charge by Australia's Eli Steele. Both surfers advanced.
"The 15 minute heats are so difficult. I'm used to doing them back home, but especially with the live scoring, they can't keep you updated because everyone's getting constant waves. You've just got to be in your own mind," Smith said. "I do think about [my competition in a heat]; having an Australian (Steele) in a heat, an American (Trevor Thornton) in a heat, and a guy from past champion Peru (Joaquin del Castillo), that's as stacked as you get, so it feels good to come out on top."
Steele's last wave bumped him into advancing position over Castillo. "I'm still shaking," said Steele, minutes after coming out of the water, and waiting to hear his scores.
In Boys Under-16 competition, Michael Wright was one of the other standouts for the Aussies. He competed in and advanced through three Repechage rounds over the course of the day. His older siblings, Owen and Tyler, are both former ISA Gold Medalists and are competing on their respective ASP World Tours.
"[The family ISA legacy is] in my head; they've been sending little things and rooting for me," said Wright, whose voice was coarse after engaging in two 'Ring of Fires.' After every Aussie heat win, the team circles around the athlete screaming "Aussie-Aussie-Aussie," followed by a piercing "Come on!" Wright found himself in the middle of the circle on two occasions Friday.
In the Girls competition, much like Wright, Chelsea Tuach battled through and survived three tense heats in the Repechage. She is the lone surfer representing Barbados still in the event.
"This is where I wanted to be. Every heat [in the competition] is going to be better and better," said Tuach, who finished in the top 10 last year. "I just want to make Barbados proud and get us as far up [the rankings] as we can get."
Tuach is one of just five athletes who are the lone surfers remaining representing their country. The others include Ella Williams of New Zealand and Lucia Cosoleto of Argentina in the Girls division, and Costa Rica's Noe Mar McGonable and Portugal's Vasco Ribeiro, who are still in the Main Event in the Boys Under-18.
Only 13 teams of the original 31 nations still have surfers in the fight for the podium. Surfing action resumes tomorrow morning, April 21, with Boys Under-16 Repechage competition. The event webcast will be live beginning at 7:40am local time (5:40am PST; 12:40pm in London) at www.dakineisawjsc.com/live.
At 1:00pm local time, competition in the ISA World Juniors will cease, and the first heats of the ISA Aloha Cup will begin. The unique event will include the host country, and the top seven nations from last year's ISA World Juniors event in Peru. Each team will have five surfers, with four boys and one girl. Tagging one another into the water, each surfer is allowed to catch two waves and the total combination of scores determines the winners. Two four-team semifinal heats will be followed by a four-team final. This original and dynamic format for surf competition is one that the ISA believes surfing can use whenever it is in the Olympics.
Team Points After Day 6:
1- Hawaii. 7770
2- Australia. 7440
3- USA. 6700
4- Brazil. 5970
5- Peru. 5163
7. Japan 4498
8- South Africa. 4325
9- Portugal. 3623
10- New Zealand. 3590
11- Costa Rica. 3160
12- Argentina. 2866
13- Tahiti. 2473
14- Barbados. 2440
15- Great Britain. 2220
16- Venezuela. 1926
17- Panama. 1856
18- Mexico. 1852
19- Germany. 1732
20- Ecuador. 1688
21- Uruguay. 1480
22- Puerto Rico. 1436
23- El Salvador. 1160
24- Spain. 1040
25- Guatemala. 952
26- Jamaica. 904
27- Italy. 720
28- Chile. 692
29- Canada. 544
30- Switzerland. 384
31- Nicaragua. 336
The DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong is made possible with the support of the following event partners: DAKINE, Billabong, Panamá, Super Deportes, Mini, Dollar Rent A Car, Copa Airlines, Extreme Surf & Sport. The media partners are Surfea Panama, FOX Sports, Surfersvillage and Surfos. The Official Forecaster for the event is Surfline.