In a dramatic come from behind victory, Team Australia was crowned the 2009 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Champions today in Salinas, Ecuador. Australians Dean Bowen and Tyler Wright won individual gold medals for Under 18 Boys and Under 18 Girls. Keanu Asing from Hawaii won the Under 16 gold medal. Team Brazil won the Aloha Cup, an Olympic style ISA specialty tag-team event.
2005 ISA World Junior Champions, Hawaii, received the team silver medal, Brazil bronze and USA copper. France placed fifth overall, South Africa sixth, New Zealand seventh, Tahiti, Peru and Costa Rica came in eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
The largest crowds ever seen at a junior surfing event packed the beach for eight days at la FAE and were on hand to witness a thrilling conclusion to the contest this afternoon.
Today’s final was a triumph for Australia who found itself relegated to sixth place in the standings only two days ago. "It comes down to the fact that all of our kids have the real Aussie pride," said Australian coach Mark Richardson. "At the world juniors, there are so many good surfers and there is a lot of pressure. But when the pressure comes on, our kids step up. They’ve got big, big hearts. They stayed positive and they didn’t give up."
Bowen was knocked into the repercharge rounds earlier this week, losing to Costa Rican Carlos Munoz, Brazilian Thiago Guimaraes in round three. In a test of endurance, Bowen battled his way through seven elimination rounds before making it to the finals, impressing the 12 member judging panel on his way to taking first in all but one of his heats. His final match opponents, Brazilian Miguel Pupo, French surfer Maxime Huscenot and Hawaiian Dylan Goodale, all came through the qualifying rounds.
In the Boys Under 18 final heat, Bowen took the lead catching the first wave, working the left point with huge frontside turns all the way to the shore. Bowen’s next scoring wave solidified his first place lead. Pupo made an attempt to move into first with two back-to-back waves and a combined score of 15.06, but Bowen held the lead. With eight minutes still on the clock Bowen sealed the door shut with a huge 9.10 leaving Huscenot and Goodale way behind and needing a combination of 17.61. Huscenot’s last wave featured a huge free falling floater on the outside section and pulled him up into third but with time running out, but he couldn’t find the last second wave he needed to win. In the end, Pupo won silver, Huscenot bronze and Goodale copper.
"I feel on top of the world," said an emotional Bowen after the win. "This is by far the biggest win of my life. I train for this contest all year, it is what I do. I am stoked, I cannot believe we won. I would like to dedicate this win to my late mother whom I lost when I was nine years old, and to my father who is recovering from knee surgery back at home."
In the Under 18 Girls Final, Australian Tyler Wright was up against 2008 ISA World Junior gold medalist Australian teammate Laura Enever, USA surfer Courtney Conlogue and Hawaiian Alessa Quizon. After charging through the main rounds through all eight days, Wright came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, posting the first big score of the final and holding on to first for the entire 30 minutes. USA surfer Courtney Conlogue kept right on Wright’s heels, also posting big scores, but in the end was left needing almost nine points to overtake Wright.
Coming in from the water on the shoulders of Australian teammates and wrapped in the Aussie flag, Wright poured water over herself to cool down from an exhausting and intense final. "This is so awesome," said Wright. "Every heat this year in Ecuador has been a hard. There are so many good competitors here from around the world. I knew I had to just focus on my own game out there in the water and not worry about the others. We hit rock bottom the other day and it didn’t look as though we would be in the medal rounds, but we pulled together as a team. The support we’ve given each other has been amazing."
The Under 16 Boys was one of the toughest divisions this year. Stacked with talent, the race for gold seemed as though it could easily have gone to any one of the top 16 juniors. Surfers from Brazil, USA, Costa Rica, Peru, South Africa and Hawaii all had a shot at the top podium spot and Under 16 gold medal. Coming down to the final heats, Hawaii’s Keanu Asing made it clear he was going to prevail as the 2009 ISA World Junior Champion. Coming back from deep in the repercharge rounds, Asing set his radar on the gold and gave it all he had.
"This is the biggest thing I have ever won," said Asing. "I am so stoked to have pulled through the repercharges. I think the loss in round four actually helped me. It made me more charged up and more focused. I knew I had to get good waves because every heat could have been my last. Coming to Ecuador has been an incredible experience. We have had good waves all contest and everyone surfed really well."
In the final heat, Gabriel Medina from Brazil fought hard, just narrowly missing first by 0.16. Medina also had the highest single-wave score of the heat with a 9.52, but was unable to overtake Asing despite a combined score of 17.38. South African David Brand came in third, needing nearly a perfect 10 for first. Brazilian teammate Jesse Mendes finished fourth. In a great show of sportsmanship, all four surfers embraced and congratulated each other after the heat.
In the Aloha Cup, Brazil pulled ahead for the win over France, Ecuador and South Africa. Making the final was a proud achievement for the host nation, which showed all week how talented and welcoming its surfers are.
The day concluded with the official medal ceremony with the crowning of the 2009 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Champions. "This is where we show the world that the Olympics of surfing are for real," said ISA president Fernando Aguerre before the medals were awarded and the national anthems of the winning teams were played. "Muchas, gracias, Ecuador!"
As winners of the Under 18 Boys and Under 18 Girls, Dean Bowen and Tyler Wright will also receive entry spots in the 2010 Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast Trials, an Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour event.
For full results from the 2009 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship and to see photo highlights and on-demand video, visit www.quiksilver.com/isa.