For over a decade Australia and Hawaii have dominated ISA World Junior competition, while Team USA has wallowed in mediocrity. Some highlight moments, sure — but a gold medal has always eluded our team of talented juniors.
Yesterdays gold medal in Oceanside, California proved to themselves — as well as to the 36 nations who competed this past week — that the future of American surfing is in great hands.
Coach Ryan Simmons said it perfectly: “Setbacks make room for comebacks.” And after too many setbacks over the course of too many years, Ryan’s belief in our USA youth was a huge reason for yesterday’s result. Ask any kid on the team and they’ll tell you: Without Ryan’s passion and dedication, a gold medal would have once again slipped through our fingers. It was a collective effort, of course, but one that was helped tremendously by Stevie Pittman’s victory in the Under 16 division.
In that final, Stevie and fellow American John Mel had a tall task against Australia’s Reef Hazlewood and Marco Mignot from France. But with 25 seconds on the clock, Stevie rode the winning wave and stepped off on the sand as a world champion — the first time in history that an American has accomplished that feat. And it’s made even more impressive considering Kolohe Andino, Nat Young and Conner Coffin have all competed in the event. Of note: With the win, Stevie is now an Olympic hopeful for Tokyo 2020.
Along with Stevie and John, Tia Blanco, Frankie Harrer, Colt Ward and Jake Marshall also had an impressive week. Jake finished just behind an in-form Leo Fioravanti, whose under-18 Championship victory serves as a blast back on the competitive scene from his debilitating back injury last year.
But when all was said and done, the stars and stripes pocketed a combined score of 7,536 points, 971 more than any other country – a landslide victory.Huge congratulations are in order for Team USA, the 2015 ISA World Junior Champions. —Jake Tellkamp