Medal time is one step closer for the world’s junior surf stars, with the penultimate day of the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship finished today in New Zealand.
With national pride and all-important final day glory on the line, competitors went head-to-head in clean 3-4ft (1-m) beach break waves.
Competitors opted to surf the right-hand rip bowl on the northern end of south Piha Beach for the morning’s heats, with the predominant lefthander on the other end of the beach failing to produce quality waves.
Teams lined the black sand of Piha Beach, flying their national flags and cheering on their surfers in what was an emotional-charged day. Hawaii (6420) is the frontrunner heading into the final day of competition, just 15-points ahead of Australia (6405) with the USA (5853) in third.
Hawaii has five surfers remaining across the Under 18 and 16 Boys, and Under 18 Girls divisions.
Australian surfer Jordi Watson (Currarong) did his best to lift his country into the no.1 spot, netting a 16.10 two-wave combined total (out of a possible 20) to storm into the main event round 6 of the Under 18 Boys division.
Watson, who scored an equal 5th placing in last year’s event, cut loose in the reeling conditions, grabbing a set wave before throwing out multiple big moves to nail a 7.70 on his second ride. In rhythm, Watson annihilated another wave to score a 8.40 en route to easily beating Portugal’s Frederico Morais and Tahiti’s Jocelyn Polou.
“My good mates got knocked this morning so I was pretty pumped to just get out there and do well,” said Watson. “I got a good one at the start and got on a roll. But I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’m just doing my best.”
Fellow Australian Matt Banting (Port Macquarie) was just as classy, amassing a 15.64 two-wave total to breeze through his main event round 5 Under 16 Boys heat.
The young gun stepped it up a gear scoring an 8.70 and 6.94 to defeat Hawaii’s Koa Smith and USA’s Parker Coffin.
Tahiti’s Tamaroa McComb made the most of the quality right-hand peaks on offer, blasting mixed quality maneuvers including on-rail carves, hacks and innovative aerial moves to finish with a heat-winning 15.18 total to beat South Africa’s Beyrick De Vries and Frenchmen Maxime Huscenot in the last main event round 5 Under 18 Boys heat.
“I was so happy to see the right-hander breaking this morning,” said McComb. “I just love going right, it’s my favorite. I can’t wait to surf again.”
New Zealand’s hopes of a medal remain with Ben Poulter (Raglan) and Sarah Mason (Cabarita, AUS –formerly New Zealand-) after both surfers survived their heats today.
Poulter, who cut his foot before entering the water for his heat, showed courage to finish behind Japan’s Hiroto Arai – 14.16 to 13.06 in his main event round 5 Under 16 Boys heat.
“I was walking to get my jersey and cut the top of my toe,” said Poulter after the completion of his heat. “I’m not worried about it now though. I just want to surf tomorrow.”
The strong regular foot showed smart tactics opting to surf the left-hander on the southern end of the beach, while his competitors continued to surf the right-hand rip bowl.
“I saw a couple coming through on the left so I decided to surf there,” said Poulter. “Living in Raglan, I’m familiar to surfing lefts, so I decided I would give it a go. I’m stoked.” The Raglan star showed further tactics in the high-stakes showdown, making sure American star Kolohe Andino didn’t catch a wave of consequence in the later stages of the heat.
Surfing sensation Mason hit back from a slow start in the prestigious junior event, posting a strong win against the USA trio of Lakey Petrson, ISA World Surfing Games gold medalist Courtney Conlogue and Taylor Pitz in their repercharge round 6 Under 18 Girls heat.
Mason, who was born in New Zealand but resides on the Gold Coast of Australia, controlled the heat from the opening siren, scoring a 5.90 and 6.70 on her opening two waves to finish with a two-wave combined total of 12.60 (out of a possible 20) to Peterson’s 11.16.
“I’ m really happy to get through,” said Mason. “I was just trying to concentrate on my own surfing, and not the Americans in the heat. I’m so happy.”
Newly crowned ASP World Pro Junior champion Maxime Huscenot was the day’s biggest casualty, eliminated by the Hawaiian duo of Keanu Asing and Tanner Hendrickson in their sudden-death repercharge round 7 Under 18 Boys heat this afternoon.
Asing, who is the reigning Under 16 ISA World Junior Surfing Champion, surfed through three critical repercharge heats throughout the day to advance to tomorrow’s finals.
“I’m so tired,” he said. “I surfed through like three heats. It was tough. I just gave it my best and got through.”
The Olympic style ISA Aloha Cup, which pits national teams against each other, was won by Team Australia.
Led by power surfer Watson and a team consisting of Tyler Wright, Tim MacDonald, Thomas Woods and Wade Carmichael, Australia took line honors with a combination of 62.97 points.
France (59.77) finished in second, with South Africa (50.34) in third and Hawaii (49.51) in fourth.
Competition will continue tomorrow, with finals expected to end by 2pm (local time).