DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama
With storm clouds looming, Day 3 action at the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong, went on with the threat that the fun early morning conditions could disintegrate into wind-blown slop at any moment. Fortunately, the clouds and unfavorable winds remained at bay and Qualifying Rounds for both the Girls and the Boys were run in rippable three- to five-foot waves.
The constantly changing waves at Playa Venao have tested the adaptability of the 300-plus junior athletes in the competition. Picking the right equipment and selecting the right spot to sit in the lineup has proven critical. The problem is that from 20-minute heat to 20-minute heat, the wave will shift and a strategy may become obsolete.
“I had it all planned for where I was going to sit and which waves to look for, but when I was running down the beach for my heat, I was watching it and it had totally changed,” Ellie-Jean Coffey (AUS) said. “You have to be able to adapt out there because you never really know what to expect with these tides.”
The shattered heat strategy didn’t much affect Coffey, as she went on to win her heat convincingly, putting the other three surfers in the combination situation, requiring two higher scores to match her. Coffey’s score of 15.83 was the highest of the day in the Girls division.
Numerous surfers faced the same challenges as Coffey.
“The waves aren’t coming in at the same place so you’ve got to move around a lot, ” said Chelsea Tuach (BAR), a top ten finisher in 2011, who advanced through her Girls Qualifying Round 2 heat. “The paddle out can be pretty hard, so there’s no point on going on a wave if you can’t ride it all the way in and get a good score.”
Other standouts in the Girls competition included Barbara Segatto (BRA), Karelle Poppke (TAH), Quincy Davis (USA) and Carina Duarte (POR), who took down South Africa’s Sarah Baum, one of the top-rated competitors in the event.
Another highlight of the morning came in Round 1 when Emily Gussoni of Costa Rica advanced through her heat in second behind Vania Torres (POR). At just 12 years old, Gussoni is one of the youngest competitors in the event.
“It’s my second [ISA World Championship event], and to get into the second round makes me feel very happy,” she said. “I am very proud because I know I did my best.”
As the tide filled in, the challenging morning, low-tide conditions turned into long, workable walls resulting in some dynamic surfing and high scores.
“It turns from pretty much a closeout to a super fun pointbreak kind of wave, where you can get five or six turns on a good one,” said Creed McTaggart (AUS), who won his Qualifying Round 3 heat with a two-wave score of 14.84.
McTaggart and Team Australia are staying up the road in Pedasi, where the Opening Ceremony was held, so they’re having to make the early morning commute daily. It’s not bugging the young world traveler, who’s in Panama for the first time.
“[Panama] is a pretty different place to have a contest; it’s actually pretty rad,” he said. “We’re staying a half-hour away, but the drive every morning is so cool; it’s like going through old Bali, down toward Ulu’s (Uluwatu).”
The top performance in the Boys competition came from Brazil’s Deivid Silva, who was a wave magnet in his heat, finding the biggest and longest waves to execute ferocious snaps and an array of aerial maneuvers. He finished with a two-wave total of 18.30, which included the highest single-wave score of the event, 9.97.
Other high-scoring standouts included Kaoli Kahokuloa (HAW), Tom Cloarec (FRA) and Tommy Boucaut (FRA) in the Under-18s, and Max Armstrong (RSA), Ian Gentil (HAW) and Vitor Bernardo (BRA) in the Under-16s.
Early in the event, Australia, Brazil, Hawaii, Japan, Portugal, South Africa, Tahiti and USA are still running strong, with multiple athletes still in the Qualifying Round (no Repechage heats have been run, so no surfers are yet eliminated). The top eight teams qualify to compete at the 2013 ISA China Cup.
“We just love Panama and its great waves. In one day of surfing is like surfing 3 or 4 surf spots,” said Fernando Aguerre, the Presidnet of the ISA. “The weather has been incredible, and the vibe at the event is wonderful. I wish this event would last one whole month.”
Surfing action resumes tomorrow morning, April 18, with the first Repechage heats. According to Surfline, the Official Forecaster of the event, waves should be increasing in size for the next couple days, capping out in the six- to seven-foot range by the weekend.
The event webcast will be live beginning at 7:45am local time (5:45am PST; 1:45pm in London) at www.dakineisawjsc.com/live.
Photo: Local boy Jean Carlos González shows that local knowledge is key. González pulled this big air but placed fourth in his Round 3 match-up and fell to the repechage. Photo: ISA/Rommel González