After nine days of world-class competition in the Azores, Team France emerged victorious at the 2016 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. The Team Gold Medal is the first for France in the history of the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship and the first in the Olympic Surfing era.
Team France overtook Australia in the overall team rankings on the penultimate day of competition and didn’t let go on the Final Day. Team Australia finished with the Silver Medal, Team Hawaii with the Bronze Medal and Team Japan with the Copper Medal.
The Team Copper Medal was also Japan’s first team medal in the history of the ISA and a promising preview of their drive to develop the sport on the road to Olympic Surfing in Tokyo 2020.
USA’s Caroline Marks (Girls U-16), France’s Thomas Debierre (Boys U-16), Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy (Girls U-18) and Brazil’s Weslley Dantas (Boys U-18) were crowned the individual Gold Medalists, the first individual World Junior Champions in the era of Olympic Surfing.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre spoke about the exciting day of action in the Azores:
“Congratulations to the Team Gold Medalist, Team France, and the individual Gold Medalists Caroline Marks, Thomas Debierre, Brisa Hennessey and Weslley Dantas. These surfers will forever be the very first ISA Junior Gold Medalists in the Olympic Surfing era. As all the other ISA competitors, they surfed in true Olympic spirit and showed amazing team camaraderie as they competed for the honor of representing their countries.
“A record-breaking 39 nations came together from around the world to surf in this history-making VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, for a phenomenal week of surfing and national pride. Since 1980, the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship has been the premiere stage for developing the future stars of our sport and this year is no exception. These Gold Medalists have burst into the spotlight and could be the first Olympic surfers ever at Tokyo 2020.”
The Girls U-16 Final kicked off the Series of Finals at Praia de Monte Verde with a solid swell groomed by offshore wind. USA’s Caroline Marks built a demanding lead with a heat total of 14.5 points and never looked back. Rounding out the heat was Australia’s India Robinson(7.93) with the Silver Medal, New Zealand’s Elin Tawharu (5.17) with the Bronze Medal and Great Britain’s Ellie Turner (2.44) with the Copper Medal.
Girls U-16 Gold Medalist, Caroline Marks, said:
“It feels amazing to win the first Gold Medal of the event! This is my first ISA World Championship, so this win is really special to me. My teammates helped me a ton.
“I worked really hard to get here and moving forward it is definitely a goal of mine to compete with all the world’s top female surfers.”
The Boys U-16 Final ensued, with France’s Thomas Debierre putting on a performance that would propel France to the Team Gold Medal. Debierre was able to fend off two Japanese teammates and finish with a heat total of 12.50. Australia’s Kyuss King (7.87) earned the Silver Medal, Japan’s Yuji Mori (7.53) the Bronze Medal and Japan Yuji Nishi (2.83) the Copper Medal.
Boys U-16 Gold Medalist, Thomas Debierre, said:
“I came here to win the title and that’s what I did. I am stoked that I won. This is a big step for me, for my Surfing and for getting to the Olympics.
“Having my team behind me gave me all of the strength that I needed. This is the best day of my life!”
Next was the Girls U-18 Final, which came down to the wire and was decided by Brisa Hennessy’s (HAW) 6.50-point wave in the dying seconds. Hennessy catapulted herself into the Gold Medal position, overcoming Tahiti’s Vahine Fierro (8.26) who earned the Silver Medal. Costa Rica’s Leilani McGonagle (7.97) earned the Bronze Medal and France’s Juliette Brice (4.6) earned the Copper Medal.
Girls U-16 Gold Medalist, Brisa Hennessy, said:
“It means so much to win the Gold. My experience from last year’s event where I won the Bronze Medal helped me so much. I hope one day that I can use this experience get to the Olympics. That would be amazing.
“The ISA World Junior Surfing Championship is an amazing contest and I always look forward to the next one.”
The Boy’s U-18 Final capped off the day. In another nail-biter, Peru’s Alonso Correa made a last ditch attempt to surpass Brazil’s Weslley Dantas in the final seconds of the heat. Both surfers stood with their teams on the shore, anxiously waiting for the final scores to be posted. It turned out that Correa’s wave of 7.40 was not enough, falling less than a half point short of Dantas’ score. Dantas (13.34) retained his lead and earned the Gold Medal. Alonso Correa (13) earned the Silver Medal, France’s Colin Doyez (8.4) earned the Bronze Medal and Australia’s Harley Ross (7.74) earned the Copper Medal.
Boys U-18 Gold Medalist, Weslley Dantas, said:
“It’s great to have won here in the Azores. This tells all Brazilians that there can be many more World Champions from Brazil.
“I think that I can be an Olympic surfer one day as well as many of the competitors that participated in this event.”