After a grueling week of adverse conditions, PacSun USA Surf Team Head Coach Joey Buran made tough but calculated decisions as he trimmed his 30-man roster down to the 16 who will make up the travel squad and represent the United States.
The we week-long training camp, run in the rain, blustery wind and at times hail, saw standout performances in the three divisions in which the PacSun USA Surf Team will compete: Boys Under 16, Boys Under 18 and Girls Under 18.
The Under 18 Boys are led into battle by perhaps the hottest surfer on the national team, Santa Cruz’s Nat Young. A rising star whose breakthrough 2008 has thus far carried over nicely into ’09, Young’s style should be well suited to handle the left-hand point break at La FAE.
Young is the United States’ best chance at a gold medal in the Under 18 division. Rounding out the rest of the 18s are Evan Thompson who was on the team two years ago and brings some solid ISA experience, Fisher Heverly and Chase Wilson who fought through a stomach virus and six back-to-back heats to claim the last spot.
“Our Under 18s look strong. We do have Nat Young and Chase Wilson returning as veterans from last year’s team,” Buran said. “And we’ve filled in with Fisher Heverly and Evan Thompson who’s had success in the WQS Juniors in North America, is an elite surfer, made finals at NSSA Nationals.”
For the Under 18 Girls, their leader is clear -- Courtney Conlogue. Last year’s third place finisher at the ISA World Juniors, Conlogue is one of the favorites to take top podium honors in Ecuador. “We have the veterans in Courtney, who’s obviously a gold medal favorite and Kaleigh [Gilchrist], who’s solid,” Buran said. “Lakey [Peterson]’s really young, Lani [Doherty]’s young. They’ve both made some finals at the USA Champs and NSSA Nationals.
Headlining the travel roster are the Under 16 Boys. A deep and immensely talented group of budding superstars, Coach Buran made no attempt to hide his expectations for this group during the week. Time after time Buran referred to the Under 16s as the most talented group of 15-year-old surfers you’ll find on the planet. It goes without saying, Buran expects gold from these boys.
“I would expect in Under 16 we’ll do damage,” Coach Buran said. Out of Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin, Evan Geiselman, and Ian Crane, Buran thinks all of these kids have a legitimate shot at medaling.
And who does Buran expect to be the toughest competition? “Aside from Hawaii, Australia and Brazil, I think the biggest sleeper is South Africa,” Coach Buran said. “I think they had a really good team last year, and I think what happened to us, happened to them – the wheels just kind of came off on the last day. I think South Africa is going to be an under-the-radar, dangerous team.”
Highlighting the week’s end was a visit by famed USC Football Head Coach Pete Carroll. About two thirds of the way through the day’s heats, Coach Buran, a huge fan of Coach Carroll’s, called the kids to the beach. Surfers and their parents, media and industry heads circled around.
After a short introduction from Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight, Coach Carroll began to speak and it was clear he was as comfortable on a beach talking to young surfers and he was on a practice field or locker room addressing Division I college football players.
"You have to forget about Australia," Carroll said about the reigning world champs. "They're not going to ride your waves or be on your board. They have no factor in what you do. It is you that has to perform. If you start worrying about other stuff that you can't control, that's when you take your focus off giving your best."
Before he left, Coach Carroll praised Buran for his hard work and the intensity he has so visibly infused into the program. “You can feel Joey's passion for this sport and all of you -- in the way he talks and the way he acts,” Carroll said.
“It was awesome hearing his whole strategy -- being aggressive and attacking, turning a 7 into an 8. That's what the great ones do, and all you guys are definitely aspiring to be great. I wish you all the best as you go achieve your dreams."
The 2009 PacSun USA Surf Team travel roster:
BOYS UNDER 18
Alternate: Balaram Stack
BOYS UNDER 16
Alternate: Jacob Halstead and Colin Moran
GIRLS UNDER 18
Alternate: Taylor Pitz