The South African squad had no reason to stop waving their flags at Huntington on Sunday. After being stuck just below the powerhouse teams of the U.S., Brazil and Australia all week they had a lot of work to do. As the finals began, South Africa planted their flag down in the wet sand along the water's edge and wouldn't pull it out until they had back to back first places in the finals.
Kicking off the celebration was goofyfoot Longboarder Mathew Moore who flew through "Machado's peak" at the south end of the area making impossible floaters on his 9'0.'' Moore posted an 8.67 towards the end of the heat to pull ahead of the U.K.'s Benjamin Skinner, who had a hoard of pasty Brits in cheering frenzy throughout the final. Mathew Moore made his way in and found a frenzy rally cap wearing South African compatriots. Taking the water after Moore was Jordy Smith, hoping to keep the comeback alive.
Jordy surfed his heats the final two days like he was at home with his friends. He was chucking multiple airs on waves, pulling Supermans like they were cutbacks, and even felt loose enough to try something experimental in the final, "I saw someone do it in a video before," Jordy explained of his showboating maneuver in the final. "Everyone needed a big score and I had only one wave left, so I just went for it." The maneuver was a basic floater, but while the regularfoot was roof riding, he took his right foot and moved it up to the nose of the board and back again. It looked like a circus high wire act on the water, and would be the final wave the South African would ride before being hoisted on his team's shoulders. With two arms raised, Jordy Smith made his way to the scaffolding under a sea black, yellow, white, red, blue and green—the only six colored national flag—arms raised, with a smile that only a gold medal can bring. "It's crazy to win a gold medal, it's something you always dream of," said the newly crowned World Surfing Champ.
Joining Jordy in the final was Australian WCTer Luke Stedman, Pat O'Connell of the U.S., and Brazilian Armando Daltro. The only guy who had a realistic shot at catching the flying Smith was Luke Stedman; but with about 6 minutes remaining, Jordy made an impossible section and would come around to find Stedman taking off in front of him. This would be the end. Every competitor was in a combo situation at the 5-minute horn. The Women made it a little more dramatic.
In the Women's final it came down the last wave of the heat. They were neck and neck the whole way. Carlsbad's Julian Christian and Brazil's Jacqueline Silva paddled the length of the contest area: Jacqueline trying to get away in an effort to get the score she needed for the win, while Christian followed closely in hot pursuit. After a couple of jukes, Silva snuck away long enough to snag a midsized right just as the buzzer was about to go off. As the nervous Christian watched, de Silva put in one big hack, and then the wave petered out. Her score was 0.10 too short. The U.S. would take gold. "At least it was exciting!" said the Gold Medalist Christian with a smile permanently smeared on her face.
Under sunny skies in the waning Surf City light, the South African gold medalists stood tall along with the Brazilians after their rally for the overall Silver medal. Julia Christian is still smiling. And the Aussies are hopping through downtown Huntington Beach bars like kids at Disneyland in celebration of their overall gold. The U.S. held on for a bronze and Huntington Beach will finally be able to rest after putting on 7 days straight of really good 4-6 foot surf, combined with hot, sunny weather. Now it's time to start passing the torch for the next ISA event in Puerto Rico: The ISA Masters World Surfing Games.
For complete results, go to www.isasurf.org.