ISA Quiksilver Junior World Surfing Championships

May days at the ISA. Last time was in Maresias, Brazil, which started with firing beachbreak and ended with real bullets in Sao Paulo – when the worst riot in the history of South America broke out and left 180 people dead in a single weekend. This time was a lot more peaceful – well except if you were staying within a fifty-yard radius of the Hotel Costa de Caparica – where you were likely to be hit by a Japanese sniper aiming a condom filled with water. “The Japanese team learned how to make them from us,” said a young tow headed competitor who wished to remain anonymous. Probably not the type of international cultural exchange envisioned by ISA impresario Fernando Aguerre, but effective nonetheless. A few lessons learned from two week at this hotel: don’t venture in the halls when a majority of the adults are having a drink at the bar because you don’t want to know what the groms are doing upstairs, watch your step so you don’t slip on the marble floor made slippery by the hordes of wet feet and do not, under any circumstances try to use the wireless internet at night when hundreds of laptops are making download speeds crawl because they’re all logged on to Myspace!

The surf conditions were far from ideal – 1-2 foot dribbers for the days 1-7 and onshore 3-4 foot slop for the finals – but the talent level of talent was there in spades. You’ve probably never heard of Alejo Muniz, Davey Cathels, Teale Vanner, Tamaroa Mc Comb, Maxime Huscenot, Bruna Schmitz or Diana Souza, but remember their names because you will.

Despite the lack of waves, this event offered amenities that put many WCT contests to shame such as a skate ramp and inflatable soccer field in the dunes, beach party with reggae band, and a sick little train to carry the competitors from the hotel to the comp.

The overall stand out had to be Garrett Parkes. The 16 year-old Aussie probably weighs 110 pounds soaking wet, but has style honed on the Byron Bay area points and a full bag of tricks. He just filmed a part for Young Guns 3 and the experience of trying to keep up with Dane Reynolds, Clay Marzo, Julian Wilson and Ry Craike helped take him to a new level. Garrett dominated the Under 16 division. “I’m over the moon, just frothing,” said Parkes afterward. His father in Australia, who is his primary shaper, recently suffered a stroke and the win was an emotional one for young Garrett. “I dedicate my win to my Dad who was watching my heats on the webcast. He’s the man,” he said.

On the girls side Sally Fitzgibbons from the New South Wales south coast stood head and shoulders above the pack. Her style is silky smooth – no wasted motion whatsoever. She was unlucky to go down last year in Brazil and left no doubt this time. “Last year I was winning but then went down in the last 20 seconds of the event,” Fitzgibbons said. “It was a devastating loss, but it made me focus on surfing to the best of my ability this year.

As for the Hawaiians? They won in 2005 finished 3rd this year. That might seem like a disappointment but consider that they were without Clay Marzo, Tyler Newton, Kiron Jabour, Jon Jon Florence and Carissa Moore at this contest. Had those kids come along the Hawaiians medal would have most likely been gold and not bronze.

And Team USA? Well except for Ventura’s Cory Arrambide and Sage Erickson, pretty bleak. Arrambide, who’s got a backhand like Bobby Martinez, ripped on the final two days when the surf improved and was within a hair of first place in the Under 18 Boys. (He finished 4th) Erickson, a powerful regular foot also from the Ventura area, made two last second comebacks in a pair of repechage heats and took a strong 3rd overall in the Under 18 Girls.

No other Americans did much of anything and the team missed a podium finish for the second straight year. But is losing all that bad? When it gives you more time for myspace and water bombs – not so much.