DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama
The surfing was done, the final horn had blown and three surfers stood at the shoreline. Surrounded by their respective teams, they waited for the judges to decide who would advance in the Main Event, and who would be forced into the Repechage.
Hawaii’s Kalani David stood with his chin to his chest, drawing shapes in the sand with his foot. France’s Nomme Mignot stood beside his coach, his arm draped over the young surfers shoulders; the country flag waved in the onshore breezes above the pair. Further down the beach, Max Armstrong was encircled by his South African teammates. Five long minutes passed, and in that time, the beach fell silent waiting for the call.
When the announcers finally spoke, it was Mignot and the French team who were jumping and screaming and clapping hands. Mignot broke down, tears of joy streaming down his face. David advanced in second in the Under-16 heat.
“I hate that feeling, being tense; I prefer to know that I won the heat in the water, but it feels good to cry a bit,” Mignot said afterward, dark sunglasses covering up his eyes. “I didn’t think I surfed very well, and I saw the South African rip a wave, and then Kalani David was destroying it out there, so I really didn’t know where I was [in the rankings]. Those were some very suspenseful moments.”
With 84 surfers from the three divisions being knocked out of the event, emotions were high on Day 5 of the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong. By the end of the day, just 116 of the record-number 303 athletes were still in the running for a spot on the three podiums.
“I always tell the competitors, I know everyone wants a medal, but you’ve got to be prepared to deal with that not happening. You’ve got hundreds of kids with the same hope and goal,” said Fernando Aguerre, the President of the ISA. “That’s part of the beauty of personality, of character, being able to cope with defeat; that’s part of life. Life is not a rose garden. Life is a bunch of good things, of bad things, good times and bad times. You just have to use the good times as a springboard for the bad times and endure.”
But competitors will be competitors. Emotion often wins out over reason. And with the title of ISA World Junior Champion on the line, the best under-18 junior surfers in the world often can’t help but let those emotions come out, in victory and defeat.
There were numerous tense moments on the sand today. With the level of talent narrowing to the best of the best, the difference between advancing or not was coming to last-minute rides and fractions of a point.
Needing a big score in order to get into the advancing position, Ellie-Jean Coffey of Australia was trying to stay composed while facing the potential of disappointment.
“Obviously you never give up hope when you’re in the dying minutes [of a heat] and you haven’t quite got the score you wanted, and you need a good to excellent score,” Coffey explained. “I was trying to keep calm, but at the same time I had all this adrenaline. I just wanted to get a wave and smash it.”
The wave she’d hoped for arrived, and “smash it” she did. With just over a minute remaining in the heat, she took off on the right-breaking wave, riding on her backhand. She muscled two big snaps on the overhead set, impressing the judges enough to receive a 7.77.
“I thought for sure I was knocked out. I think I fainted at one point, I was so happy. I was trying to do the ‘Ring of Fire’ (the Australian team post-heat celebration), but I was crying,” Coffey said. “It’s a big deal representing your country. I’m really patriotic and I really love my country. I’m proud to be an Australian, so coming here where everyone is supporting you and you’ve got the best team behind you – it means a real lot to me.”
Nikki Viesins (USA) advanced in second behind Coffey.
The other big standout of the day in the Girls division was Tatiana Weston-Webb. The toe-headed Hawaiian did the majority of the work in her heat in the early minutes, positioning herself in first, behind solid rail surfing. Ella Williams (NZL) has been impressing sine Day 1, but came up second to Weston-Webb.
In the final Boys Under-18 Repechage heat of the day, with the tide high and many waves still three-feet overhead, Peru’s Juninho Urcia – who won a Copper Medal at last year’s event – found himself in a precarious position with five minutes to go. With no scores posted, he managed to find a smaller left to get himself on the board. Then with the final seconds ticking off the clock, he found another left that ran down the beach, and he went to work, fitting in seven turns, the final one washing him up on the sand.
He was standing in a circle with Team Peru, water still dripping from his face when the scores came: 7.33.
“It was a really tough, really tense heat,” said Urcia, the five-time ISA Scholarship winner, who was clearly elated and at the same time relieved. “I couldn’t find any waves to catch in the first few minutes, but I waited for a good one, it came and I took advantage. I’m happy about my performance, my will; I never stopped fighting and this victory goes to my country and all those who support me.”
With Urcia surviving the heat, Peru is the only team remaining with all of its athletes still in the competition.
The other athletes of note in Boys Under-18 competition were Vasco Ribeiro (POR), Tommy Boucaut (FRA), Kain Daly (HAW), Hiroto Arai (JPN), Deivid Silva (BRA), Miguel Tudela (PER), Joshua Hay (AUS) and Dylan Lightfoot (RSA), the last remaining unbeaten surfers in the division.
Surfing action resumes tomorrow morning, April 20, with Boys Under-16 Repechage and Girls Under-18 Repechage competition.The event webcast will be live beginning at 10:10am local time (8:10am PST; 4:10pm in London) at www.dakineisawjsc.com/live.
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM ISA PRESIDENT FERNANDO AGUERRE:
“It is with deep sadness, that I write this message … In the name of the ISA and all delegations participating in the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of David Lilienfeld, a member of the Surfing South Africa Team and SA Bodyboarding that competed in the 2011 ISA World Bodyboard Championship in the Canary Islands. David was killed yesterday by a great white shark in South Africa. As a sign of respect to him, all competitors, officials and attending public will observe a moment of silence at the start of our competition on Friday, April 20.”
Team Points as of Day 5
1- Peru. 7770
1- Australia. 7770
1- Hawaii. 7770
1- USA. 7770
1- France. 7770
6- Brazil. 7340
7- Japan. 7280
8- South Africa. 6870
9- Portugal. 6250
10- New Zealand. 5860
11- Tahiti. 4128
12- Argentina. 4086
13- Barbados. 3700
14- Costa Rica. 3620
15- Mexico. 3152
16- Great Britain. 2860
17- Puerto Rico. 2696
18- Panama. 2496
19- Ecuador. 2408
20- Germany. 2392
21- Uruguay. 2200
22- Spain. 2180
23- Venezuela. 1926
24- Chile. 1352
25- Italy. 1320
26- El Salvador. 1160
27- Guatemala. 952
28- Jamaica. 904
29- Canada. 544
30- Switzerland. 384
31- Nicaragua. 336
Photo: In an event that´s showing to have the highest level of talent in junior surfing, you can pull this air, land it perfectly and still get eliminated. That is exactly what happened to talented Costa Rican Jason Mora. Photo: ISA/Rommel Gonzalez