Team USA Holds onto Narrow Lead Going into Finals at 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

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Okuragahama beach provides world’s best junior surfers with excellent conditions; Japan’s Minori Kawai nears perfection with 9.97 wave score

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Team USA held their lead on the sixth day of competition at the 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship behind a surging Team Hawaii and Japan. With six of their twelve competitors remaining in the competition, Team USA is in position to repeat their Gold Medal performance in 2015 that crowned them World Champions for the first time in history.

Noah Hill joins the charge for Team USA who leads with one day of competition remaining. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

Close on Team USA’s tail is Team Hawaii, who had an excellent day of competition, moving up in the standings from fifth to second place. The host Team Japan closely trails in third, followed by Team France in fourth.

Both USA and Hawaii have six remaining athletes in the event, however the upcoming final day of competition for Team USA will be slightly more challenging. Only two of USA’s athletes have guaranteed medals by qualifying for the Grand Final, while the other four will have to go through the Repechage Final. Team Hawaii has three athletes already placed in the Grand Final, and three that will go through the Repechage.

Okuragahama beach exceeded everyone’s expectations and provided the world’s best junior surfers with excellent, offshore conditions with waves in the chest high range.

Japan’s Minori Kawai took full advantage of the waves on offer and earned a near-perfect 9.97 wave score in the Girls U-18 Main Event. The score was highest of any competitor in the event thus far and her heat total of 17.64 was the highest of the day.

“I had first priority and that perfect wave came right to me,” said Kawai. “I surfed the wave well and it was really fun. I feel like my surfing has been really good this year and I’m glad that it is showing in my results.”

“It’s great that the ISA is holding this event in Japan. I am trying my hardest to win and it’s great to have my family here supporting me. It’s my goal to get the individual Gold and the Team Gold for Japan.”

Kawai made it to the Main Event Final, but lost her rhythm and fell into the Repechage Rounds where she will have to surf an extra heat to achieve her goal of earning the first Gold Medal for Japan in the history of the event.

Okuragahama beach pleasantly surprised the world’s best junior surfers on Friday with superb, A-frame conditions. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

Due to the unexpected increase in swell, the competition schedule for Friday was prolonged to make the most of the best conditions that the event had seen all week. The event ran through to the Main Event Finals and Repechage Semifinals, with the top two athletes from the Main Event and Repechage set to face off in the Grand Finals to decide the World Champions on Sunday.

Friday’s competition saw the first eliminations of past World Champions, as France’s Thomas Debierre and Leo Paul Etienne fell in the Repechage Rounds.

The remaining past World Champions, Hawaii’s Summer Macedo and Brisa Hennessy, have qualified for the Repechage Final. The Hawaiian duo will have the chance to repeat as Gold Medalists and follow in the footsteps of fellow Hawaiian and current WSL star Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) who accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014.

Team Costa Rica never misses a reason to display their national pride, and Leilani McGonagle advancing to the Grand Final was certainly a reason for celebration. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

Noah Hill put on a courageous performance for the Team USA in the U-18 Men’s Repechage Rounds. After overcoming a broken leg a year ago, against all odds Hill qualified to compete for USA and is exceeding even his own expectations having advanced to the Repechage Final to take place on Sunday.

“Getting a second chance in the Repechage rounds is really cool, but it’s also hard,” said Hill. “When you lose in the Main Event, you lose your confidence, but you have to bounce back really quick and focus.

“Last year around this time I broke my leg. Everyone including myself had written me off to compete in this World Championship, so I am super happy to be competing again and doing well.

“It’s a special event because you have to work together as a team and not be so selfish. If your teammate has to be here at six in the morning to compete, then the whole team gets up early. You have to do what is best for the team.”

Despite a strong performance such as the spectacular one captured here, Australia’s Morgan Cibilic was not able to advance through Friday’s Repechage Rounds. Photo: ISA / Ben Reed

ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, said:

“What an incredible day of competition. We arrived at the beach in the morning expecting some fun waves, but we were completely surprised by what we saw when the first light showed on the beach. The excellent conditions allowed the world’s best junior surfers to display their best surfing, providing a true look into the future of our sport.

Tomorrow we are going to run the one-of-a-kind team relay event, the ISA Aloha Cup, which will provide plenty of excitement ahead of crowning World Champions on Sunday, the first crowned in Japan in 27 years.

The event will be streamed live on www.isaworlds.com September 23 – October 1.

The schedule for Saturday’s competition is as follows*:

ISA Aloha Cup

  • 10:00am – Semifinal #1 (France, Japan, USA, South Africa)
  • 11:00am – Semifinal #2 (Australia, Hawaii, Brazil, Costa Rica)
  • 12:00pm – Final

*All times in Japan Standard Time, UTC +9:00.

The remaining event schedule will be as follows:

September 30 – October 1: Competition at Okuragahama Beach
October 1:  Closing Ceremony, Okuragahama Beach

The view the official Surfline forecast, click here.

About The International Surfing Association:

The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; and World StandUp Paddle (SUP, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012.



ISA membership includes the surfing National Governing Bodies of 103 countries on five continents. Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California. It is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (Argentina), first elected President in 1994 in Rio de Janeiro. The ISA’s four Vice-Presidents are Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL). ƒ

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