France’s Lee-Ann Curren posted the highest single wave score of competition so far, a 9 out of 10, in her Under 18 Girls win at the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships today.
Surfing in 3-4 foot (1.2m) surf at Brazil’s Maresias Beach, Curren, the daughter of three-time world professional champion Tom, linked a series of flowing turns to post the excellent score in winning her first round qualifying heat. Ironically, her father won the first ISA World Junior Championship in France in 1980.
After the win, Curren, 16, of Biarritz, said that she was a bit stressed and nervous before the heat. “But now I’m in the contest and I’ll see how it goes. There were good lefts and rights so I had fun, the waves are so good,” she said.
The swell was six foot (two metres) when the teams arrived last week and during a practice session Curren was seen standing tall in a tube trailing her hand on the face, in the classic style of her famous father. “Yes, Dad taught me a bit about riding the tube,” she said with a smile.
Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa, NSW) posted the highest heat score of the day, 15.46 out of 20, in defeating Ametza Nichols, of Barbados (5.20 points), and Holly Donnelly, of the United Kingdom (4.46 points).
Fitzgibbons said it was hard to get in the right position in the lineup but there were good waves on offer. “I seemed to be in the right spot at the right time when the swell pulsed and I caught a few good sets,” she said. “The event has a good atmosphere and it’s heaps of fun so I’m hoping to continue to do well as it’s my first big international competition.”
The youngest competitor in the event, eight-year-old Iliana Aguirre, of Ecuador, showed tremendous spirit to take on both the surf and the older competitors in her heat. Even though she placed third, behind USA’s Amy Nichol and Peru’s Brissa Malaga, Aguirre captured the hearts of everyone on the beach.
“I caught a lot of waves but I’m not tired,” Aguirre said. “I like surfing pointbreaks, where it is easier to get out, but I’ll have to practise more in beachbreaks.”
Aguirre, who has been surfing since she was four, lives two hours from the beach and can only surf on weekends, though she is in the water every day on her holidays.
“I still have 10 years to compete in this event so hopefully one day I can win the gold medal,” said Aguirre, who read the sportsmanship oath on behalf of all 251 competitors from 27 countries at the event’s opening ceremony last Saturday.
Hawaii’s Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm in a shark attack in 2003, was another impressive winner today, defeating Ariel Engstrom (Puerto Rico) and Victoria Ventura (Argentina), even though she was called on an interference with Ventura at the beginning of the heat.
“I was feeling nervous, especially starting with an interference,” Hamilton said. “It was a junk closeout, so I don’t know what I was thinking. But I think the competition will get harder and harder now so I definitely want to take it up a notch.”
Hamilton’s team, Hawaii, are the defending world junior champions and they will be fighting off strong challenges from USA, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and France to defend their title in Brazil.
American Cory Arrambide (Ventura, California) and Japan’s Kaito Sekimoto caused a major upset in the Under 18 Boys Qualifying Round Two when they defeated highly touted Australian, Matt Wilkinson (Copacabana, NSW).
Wilkinson placed third in the heat with New Zealand’s Kerin van der Helder fourth. Wilkinson is still in the competition, but he now needs to progress through the repechage rounds to keep his medal hopes alive.
Arrambide, 16, said he started the heat with a decent wave that allowed for a couple of outside turns before linking up on the inside.
“It felt good to get a start like that,” Arrambide said. “We were battling to get the best waves and then I got another decent wave. I surfed against Wilko in Australia last yeear and he smoked me. He rips so I was stoked to beat him. I knew it would be tough because he’s a super-consistent surfer.”
South Africa’s Jordy Smith posted the round’s highest heat score of 15.60 in defeating Heifara Tahutini (Tahiti), Wladimar Peres (Brazil) and Tomas Valente (Portugal). Smith’s score included an 8.27.
Australia’s Julian Wilson posted the second highest score of the round with 14.17, which included an 8.0.
New Zealand’s Richard Christie, 17, from Mahia Peninsula on the North Island, also posted a win and said he was feeling good. Christie defeated Hawaii’s Torrey Meister, Jordan Guadet (USA) and Guillermo Lobo (Spain). “I was coming second to Torrey but I got a good wave at the end. We’ve got a strong team and we’re hoping to do better than last year when we finished seventh overall.”