Hawaii’s Granger Larsen posted the highest heat score on day three of the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships at Brazil’s Maresias Beach today.
The surf increased to four to five feet (1.5 metres) but the swell was broken up by a fierce overnight tropical storm, which made wave selection critical on the shallow, shifting sandbars.
In a high-scoring heat in the second round of the Under 16 Boys Qualifiers, Larsen scored 16.27 (out of 20 points) to narrowly defeat Australian Owen Wright (15.40), with New Zealand’s Ryan Hawker (9.27) third and USA’s Kalohe Andino (8.34) fourth.
Other high scores of the round came from France’s Charles Martin (15.44), New Zealand’s Paco Divers (15.27), Brazil’s Johnny Max (15.10) and Germany’s Nicolas Von Rupp (15.00).
Larsen, from Lahaina on the island of Maui, looked at ease in the tricky conditions and he caught numerous high-scoring rides, including a day’s competition best of 8.67 points (out of 10).
“I was pretty warmed up before I went out, I felt good and my board felt good,” Larsen said. “There’s a beachbreak right by my house that I surf a lot and I found it to be pretty similar here today.”
Larsen said he was enjoying the event and felt at ease. “It’s good that you get two chances with the double-elimination format,” he said. “Hawaii are defending world junior champions and our team is pretty solid again this year so I just hope to keep progressing and doing my bit for the team.”
Larsen and Wright move on through the top qualifying rounds while Hawker and Andino had to face sudden-death repechage heats later in the day, which they each won to continue in the event. (A third or fourth placing in the second-chance repechage rounds means you become a team supporter, not a competitor.)
Germany’s Nicolas Von Rupp was another happy winner, winning his Under 16 Boys Round Two Qualifier with 15 points, defeating Dillan Perillo (USA, 12.77), with Johnny Hicks (New Zealand, 5.23) third and Taiki Kurokoshi (Japan, 5.00) fourth.
Von Rupp, 15, who is in his third ISA World Junior title campaign (after Tahiti in 2004 and USA in 2005) said he thought he was lucky today: “I got a really long right-hander just three seconds before the end of the heat and that gave me the win. I was feeling a bit ill and not strong at the start of the day but I’m surfing good boards and feeling confident.”
Johnny Hicks was later eliminated from the competition after a last-second ride by Uruguay’s Santiago Madrid that pushed Hicks into third place in a Round Two Repechage.
Madrid placed second to Hawaii’s Dylan Malamed and, as the score was announced, it was elation for Team Uruguay on the edge of the shore, while Team New Zealand could only drop their heads.
“I can’t describe how I feel,” Madrid said. “I knew I had to win otherwise I was out of the event and the wave I caught was enough. I’m very happy.”
Bruce Mackie, from Barbados, was another last-second survivor when he got the score he needed to finish runner-up to Tahiti’s Tamaroa McComb in another Under 16 sudden-death repechage heat.
France’s Lee-Ann Curren was again the standout in the Under 18 Girls Round Two Qualifying, posting the highest heat score of 15.00 points. Other heat winners were: Courtney Colongue (USA, 14.43), Pauline Ado (France, 13.33) and Suza Leal (Brazil, 13.26).
Tahitian Heremoana Luciani scored the highest points, 14.33, in the Under 18 Boys Repechage Round One.
USA coach Peter Townend started to feel the pressure today when some of his youngest team members, the “groms”, fell to more experienced opponents.
“It was a disastrous day for Team USA — ‘gromitis’ set in,” Townend said. “I knew we had a young team and today the big boys did the big boy turns and my groms did the grom turns — and there’s a two-point difference in that.”
Townend said his team particularly felt the pressure from the Australians and the Hawaiians today.
“I think we can contend in the top threee, it’s not a question, but it depends on your big guns. We have two strong ones in Eric Geiselman and Cory Arrambide in the Under 18s. If two of them are in the finals, it makes a big difference to your pointscore, but we’re a long way from that.”
In fact, today is only the third day of an eight-day competition and there’s a lot of gruelling competition remaining before coaches can even think of the podium. The key to overall team victory is keeping as many of your 12-man team alive — that’s four in each division of Under 18 and Under 16 Boys and Under 18 Girls.
Echoing all the top coaches, Townend said: “We’ve got five days to go, and a lot can happen in five days. Even though I got head-slapped around today, technically I haven’t lost anyone.”
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 here in Brazil.