After eight days of slogging it out in nearly every type of condition imaginable, the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Games in New Zealand culminated with Australia's fifth-straight team title. Throughout the event, the Americans and Hawaiians see-sawed, countered, and attempted to edge out their Aussie counterparts, but the likes of female sensation Tyler Wright (sister to soon-to-be World Tour rookie Owen Wright) and grom du jour Matt Banting proved to be too sharp, too quick, and too technical to fail. At the end of the day, with two firsts and a second-place finish, the Australians had done it again, proving that they alone can carry the distinction and pride of producing the best junior surfers in the world.
Yes, the Australian team may have won the event, but the talk of the surf industry will swirl around Brazilian phenom Gabriel Medina. Over the course of the past year, Medina has become the face of the rising talent pool coming out of Brazil, first by becoming the youngest competitor to ever win a 'QS event, and second by posting two 10s and a win at the Quiksilver King of the Groms event in France.
Now, with a 19.9 showing and a new world junior title to his name, Medina just became the stuff of junior- surfing legends. A 10, a 9.9, 9.46, an 8.5, and an 8.42 in one heat alone will do that to you. Watching Medina throw down a litany of sweeping speed floats, seamless hacks, and his now-patented frontside whip, you couldn't help but think that, junior or World Tour competitors included, this kid is damn-near untouchable in head-high lefts.
"I’m feeling great," said Medina after his win. "I’m totally happy. The waves were so good for airs. I just love New Zealand."
In the Under-16 division, Matt Banting proved that there's a lot more than just luck fueling the surfers from the Lucky Country these days. Banting, who won every heat of the event save one, surfed so technically sound, fluid, and relaxed that he resembled a young Parko at times. In his final, Banting dominated much of the heat over Koa Smith from Hawaii, Jake Halstead from the USA, and Hiroti Arai from Japan, finishing out the session with a 15.9.
"I’m so happy," said Banting. "It was a really hard final with a lack of waves. It changed just before we went out and I was lucky to get a couple of runners."
For the women, Tyler Wright, who became the youngest surfer ever (male or female) to win a World Tour event when she scalped the Layne Beachley classic in 2008 at the ripe old age of 14, added a world junior championship title to her growing list of accolades after dashing Hawaii's Alessa Quizon in the dying minutes of the final.
Wright held the lead for the majority of the heat, but with the final all but wrapped up, Quizon punted a clean frontside grab to the tune of an 8.3 and took the lead. Everyone had written off Wright to a silver-medal finish. That is, everyone except for Tyler Wright. With just a few short seconds to spare, Wright clawed her way into an 8.6, stealing the lead back from Quizon and taking the world junior title.
"I kept to my own game plan," said Wright. "Alessa [Quizon] did an air on one of her last waves, but I got a good one straight after. It felt unreal to be chaired by my team once I got to the beach. I feel privileged…I feel on top of the world," said Wright. "It’s two years in a row for me in one of the highest level of competitions there is. It was a tough final, so I’m just really happy with the result. I love this event. I hope to come back next year."
Wright joins Stephanie Gilmore with the distinction of being the only people to earn back-to-back ISA Junior titles.
Final Team Results:
1. Aus – 6015
2. Haw – 5038
3. USA – 4958
Final Individual Results:
Boys Under 18:
1. Gabriel Medina (Bra) 19.9
2. Jordin Watson (Aus) 14.92
3. Tamaroa McComb (Tah) 14.90
4. Beyrick De Vries (Zaf) 12.96
Boys Under 16:
1. Matt Banting (Aus) 15.90
2. Jake Halstead (USA) 11.60
3. Koa Smith (Haw) 10.40
4. Hiroti Arai (Jpn) 10.24
Girls Under 18:
1. Tyler Wright (Aus) 16.00
2. Alessa Quizon (Haw) 12.74
3. Sarah Baum (Zaf) 9.72
4. Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.66