VISSLA ISA World Junior Champs
International Surfing Association
Okuragahama Beach, Hyuga, Japan
23 September - 1 October 2017
Team France, Australia, Japan closely trail with three days of competition remaining
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 28 September, 2017 - Hyuga, Japan - Team USA jumped out into the lead in the team rankings with only three days remaining at the 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. In what is set to be a closely contested race for Gold, the defending World Champion France, Australia, and Japan trail USA, well within striking distance of Gold.
Team USA, who won the overall Gold for the first time when they hosted the event in Oceanside, California in 2015, lost only one competitor in Thursday's Repechage Round. Their near-perfect performance was led by their U-16 sensation, Taro Watanabe, who has asserted himself as one of the true up-and-comers with the highest heat total of the event thus far (19.03) and the third highest of the day on Thursday (15.50).
The Boys U-18 Main Event came to a fever-pitch in the late morning with a super-star round that saw teammates face off from two of the leading teams in the overall ranking. The two past World Champions from Team France, Thomas Debierre (2016) and Leo-Paul Etienne (2014), and two members of Team Australia, Samson Coulter and Morgan Cibilic, competed to remain alive in the Main Event and avoid Repechage.
Debierre and Etienne showed excellent teamwork and managed to strategically position themselves to help each other get the best waves, with Debierre earning first with 12.1 points and Etienne in second with 11.5 points. The Australian duo was relegated to the Repechage Rounds where they will have to take the long road to a podium finish.
"Our strategy was to get the first waves of the heat," said Etienne. "Thomas took the first right then I took the next left. Our strategy played out well.
"Team France isn't satisfied with winning the Team Gold Medal last year. We want to win the Gold again this year. Right now we still have all but one of our teammates in the competition, so we just need to keep taking it round by round and moving forward."
In the Repechage competition format, surfers that lose in the Main Event fall into the Repechage Rounds, where they have a second chance to advance. The Repechage Rounds are the long way, as they take more rounds to arrive to the Grand Final where top two from the Repechage final face off with the top two from the Main Event Final.
Kitty Brewer put on an admirable performance for Team Channel Islands in their first year participating in the event. Brewer fought through the Women's U-18 Repechage, passing through two heats before falling in her third of the day.
"Having two chances in the contest makes it extra fun," said Brewer. "Going through the Repechage Rounds you can end up having a few heats in a day, as I did, so I have to pace myself while surfing my best in my heats.
"It feels so cool to represent Channel Islands in this World Championship. My brother is on the team as well, which makes me happy and makes me feel at home.
"This is Channel Islands first year at the ISA so we are just having a good time and seeing how we all do. I want to get the best results I can, but I want to enjoy the experience as well. It's cool to be surfing here with loads of different countries and making friendships that can last a lifetime."
After the closing of competition on Thursday, the international community of competitors participated in a paddle out led by ISA President Fernando Aguerre to remember the three-time ISA Junior competitor, 16-year-old Zander Venezia from Barbados, who recently lost his life in a surfing accident at home.
"We are deeply saddened by the departure of Zander from this world," said ISA President, Fernando Aguerre. "We have gathered here today to come together, console each other, and celebrate the vibrant life of Zander."
"Zander competed in three editions of the VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship and was going to compete this year before his passing. Each year he competed he improved his result. He truly was a bright young man and an upcoming star of the sport who was well on his way to winning an ISA medal.
"We send our deepest condolences to his teammates and family. His legacy within the international Surfing community will forever live on."
The official Surfline forecast is calling for the current swell to fade on Friday with waves in the 1-3 foot range.
The event will be streamed live on isaworlds.com September 23 - October 1.
The schedule for Friday's competition is as follows*:
Podium 1 (live webcast)
7:00am-8:00am - 4 heats Boys U-18 Repechage Round 6
8:00am-8:30am - 2 heats Girls U-18 Repechage Round 5
8:30am-9:10am - 2 heats Boys U-18 Main Event Round 5
9:10am-9:40am - 2 heats Boys U-18 Repechage Round 7
9:40am-10:20am - 2 heats Girls U-18 Main Event Round 4
10:20am-10:50am - 2 heats Boys U-18 Repechage Round 8
10:50am-11:20am - 2 heats Girls U-18 Repechage Round 6
7:00am-8:00am - 4 heats Boys U-16 Repechage Round 5
8:00am-8:30am - 2 heats Girls U-16 Repechage Round 5
8:30am-9:10am - 2 heats Boys U-16 Main Event Round 5
9:10am-10:10am - 4 heats Boys U-16 Repechage Round 6
10:10am-10:50am - 2 heats Girls U-16 Main Event Round 4
10:50am-11:20am - 2 heats Boys U-16 Repechage Round 7
11:20am-11:50am - 2 heats Girls U-16 Repechage Round 6
11:50am-12:20pm - 2 heats Boys U-16 Repechage Round 8
*All times in Japan Standard Time, UTC +9:00.
The remaining event schedule will be as follows:
September 29 - October 1: Competition at Okuragahama Beach
October 1: Closing Ceremony, Okuragahama Beach