Dylan Lightfoot: tail skills

The pressure is on. The repechage heats decided who keeps tracking the medals at the 2012 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, in Playa Venao, Panama.


"I handle the pressure by being relaxed, by thinking about something else, by getting distracted, because it can make you real nervous to think about who you're competing against, and how the sea is going to behave," said Lakshmi Camarino (ARG), who advanced in first place through her Repechage heat.

The record number of athletes (303) competing in Panama are the best junior surfers from 31 nations around the world. They are young, and handling the frustration and disappointment of not surfing their best and losing in a heat can be difficult to cope with.

After winning an ASP Junior Pro event just weeks prior to coming to Panama, South Africa's Slade Prestwich was certainly circled as one of the talents to watch in the Boys Under-18s.

Unfortunately, he had a uncharacteristically poor showing in Round 1 and found himself in the Repechage. His coaches have helped him to realign any negative thinking that may have rattled his confidence.

"I thought about it last night, and winning a world title is pretty good but I think winning a world title after getting knocked out in the first heat and coming back from the repo sounds better," said Prestwich, who advanced through two heats today looking much more the threat he was perceived to be. "It kind of gives me a bit of confidence to win it."

Much as it has since Day 1, the waves at Playa Venao shifted with the incoming tide. The beachbreak wave turned from a closeout into "almost like a Lowers right," the world-class wave at Trestles in Southern California, according to USA's Griffin Colapinto. Colapinto won his Repechage heat with a score of 13.27, after battling flu-like symptoms for the past few days.

Besides the Americans, Australia, Brazil, France, Hawaii, Peru and Portugal are still solidly in the running for the Team Gold Medal and qualification the 2013 ISA China Cup. The ISA will invite the top eight finishing nations to compete at Riyue Bay on Hainan Island in China. Each of the seven aforementioned teams still has all of its athletes in contention.

Much like Colapinto, Panama's Frank Curren had nothing but praise for the conditions on Wednesday afternoon. He advanced in first through his Repechage heat, but fell short in his second heat and was eliminated.

"It's so much fun out there," he said. "I wish I could go back out."

Curren, who's the son of surf legend Tom Curren, is competing for Panama despite living in California. His mom is Panamanian, and much of Frank's family on his mothers' side lives in Panama City, so he's familiar with many of the waves in the country. Before this event, he didn't know much about his teammates – but he does now.

"They're awesome; they're all super crazy, like loud, but they're all really funny and they're super cool to hang out with. They always have the biggest smile on their face even if they lose a heat. They're just amped because they're surfing with their friends," Curren said. "There are a couple of those guys who surf really good and they're super underrated."