Australia: top of the tops

Australia won the Team Gold Medal in the Panama ISA World Masters Surfing Championship in clean, well shaped 5 to 7 foot waves. Heather Clark (RSA), Andrew Banks (RSA), Juan Ashton (PUR), Rod Baldwin (AUS) and Chris Knutsen (RSA) won the Gold Medal in the individual divisions.

The Aussie team’s title came after an intense and tight battle with South Africa. A mere difference of less than 300 points gave the first ISA Masters World Championship to the Aussies, stopping two years of African supremacy.

Final Team Medal Standings:
Gold: Australia – 10456 points
Silver: South Africa – 10196 points
Bronze: Brazil – 8770 points
Copper: Puerto Rico – 8684 points

Sandra English, competitor and Team Manager of Australia, said about the victory, “It’s hard team work, everyone is cheering for each other and it all paid off with a couple of good results in the finals. Since it is a hard wave, it was really important to come here one week before.”

It was a hard fought final with two red hot Australians and a defending World Champion, but South African Andrew Banks turned things to his favor in the last five minutes of the Masters (over 35) final. After scoring 9.07 on a set wave, he secured the Gold Medal with a combined score of 17.57. Brett Bannister (AUS) placed second, Dean Hall (AUS) third, and Juan Ashton (PUR) fourth.

Banks said, “I feel extremely happy, this is the reason why I came here. This is what I was praying for, and I was not going to be happy with second place. It was a tough final and I gave it my all for my late brother, Robbie - I surf for him.”

Ashton Wins Three out of Three
Juan Ashton (PUR) won his third Gold Medal of his career today in the Grand Masters (over 40) division. He is, along with Chris Knutsen (RSA), the only surfer to win the Gold in each edition of the ISA World Masters.

The Puerto Rican waited patiently for a good wave and when it came he linked a set of strong moves worth 9.00 points to the judges. Ashton backed that up with an 8.40 to leave Glen Pringle (AUS) in second, Andre Malherbe (RSA) in third and Ricardo Villanueva (PUR) in fourth.

“I am really happy because I always said that for me it was more important to win the Grand Masters because it is my new division. Obviously, I would have loved to win both but winning one is awesome. This is super special for me.” said Ashton.

Baldwin Wins the Only Australian Individual Gold
The powerful backside attack of Rod Baldwin (AUS) gained the Australian team their only individual gold medal, in the Kahunas (over 45) division . Midway through the final, Baldwin took off on an excellent set wave and after linking a series of vertical off the lips, he received an 8.67 from the judges. He added another high scoring 6.37 wave to reach a combination of 15.04. Sergio Penna (BRA) placed second, David Malherbe (RSA) third and Martín Jerí (PER) placed fourth.

Baldwin, the Copper Medalist in the 2008 ISA World Masters, said, “(This) is fantastic, I didn’t expect this. I’m so grateful, I have been surfing for 35 years and this is the best result I have ever had. You just have to keep surfing, it keeps you young and I just love it!”

Three Golds in a Row for Chris Knutsen
At 53, South African Chris Knutsen won the Grand Kahunas (over 50) ISA World Title again, nabbing his third Gold Medal in his stellar career (he won the Kahunas division in the 2007 edition).

Knutsen displayed smart wave selection and performed strong moves to post the only perfect 10-point ride of the event. He backed it up with an 8.5, leaving Javier Huarcaya (PER) in second, Kenneth Myers (PAN) in third, and Javier Gorbea (PUR) in fourth.

“I came here trying to win a third ISA World Title as a hat trick, and I managed to pull it off,” said an emotional Knutsen. “I think God gave me the waves as it was amazing to get a 10. I caught the wave and it looked like it was going to be a good one. It was my chance, so I just rode it the best I could and luckily it worked out well for me. I am so happy, this happens because if you really love what you do, and I love surfing, you can only get better.”

Back-to-Back Heather Clark
Heather Clark won her second consecutive ISA Women Masters (over 35) title. Just as in Punta Rocas in 2008, her backside surfing was powerful, clean and radical. Clark scored a total 17.86 (8.93 + 8.93) in the final to leave Andrea Lopes (BRA) in second, Patricia Rossi (TAH) in third, and Sandra English (AUS) in fourth.

Clark has won every heat she has entered in her two appearances in the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship. After being mobbed by her teammates on the shore, Clark commented, “It was hard because all the surfers in the final are really good and we all got waves over the 6.00 point range. I had support in the water, at the beach and I wanted really bad to get my second world title.”

Closing Ceremony
The Closing Ceremony took place immediately after the last heat. The President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, honored the surfers, as well as the Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela, Minister of Tourism, Salo Shamah and Minister of Economy, Alberto Vallarín. They joined ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, in the medal awarding.

The winning nation’s anthems were played out loud and the ISA´s Surfing Camaraderie spirit was displayed in Santa Catalina as an amazing way to finish the event.

The President of Panama showed great interest in Surfing, he said to all the visiting surfers, “Tell everybody about the perfect waves we have and come here, you are more than welcome.” He also made sure to have the ISA President commit to bringing another international event to Panama in the summer of 2011.

Shamah said, “We are very happy and surprised with the results of this tournament. Governments do not usually get involved in the surfing arena. We decided to do it because we think the waves will attract tourists and wealth, and that has been the result of this competition.”

As for Fernando Aguerre, he said, “I want to thank the Panamanian people, the government and the private sector for their commitment with this sport. This is the most exciting part of the event, the medals ceremony, but it is also the part when we remember everything, the rainy days, the wind, the great waves, the broken boards, and the emotions. We want to let all the Panamanians know that we leave your country with our hearts filled with great memories.”

The ISA World Masters Surfing Championship will be held again next year in a soon to be announced location.

Medalists
Masters
Gold: Andrew Banks (RSA)
Silver: Brett Bannister (AUS)
Bronze: Dean Hall (AUS)
Copper: Juan Ashton (PUR)

Grand Masters
Gold: Juan Ahston (PUR)
Silver: Glen Pringle (AUS)
Bronze: Andre Malherbe (RSA)
Copper: Ricardo Villanueva (PUR)

Kahunas
Gold: Rod Baldwin (AUS)
Silver: Sergio Penna (BRA)
Bronze: David Malherbe (RSA)
Copper: Martín Jerí (PER)

Grand Kahunas
Gold: Chris Knutsen (RSA)
Silver: Javier Huarcaya (PER)
Bronze: Kenneth Myers (PAN)
Copper: Javier Gorbea (PUR)

Women Masters
Gold: Heather Clark (RSA)
Silver: Andrea Lopes (BRA)
Bronze: Patricia Rossi (TAH)
Copper: Sandra English (AUS)

Final Team Standings:
1: AUSTRALIA
2: SOUTH AFRICA
3: BRAZIL
4: PUERTO RICO
5: PERU
6: VENEZUELA
7: ARGENTINA
8: FRANCE
9: PANAMA
10: COSTA RICA
11: MEXICO
12: ITALY
13: URUGUAY
14: REP.DOMINICAN
15: JAMAICA
16: NEW ZEALAND
17: GUATEMALA
18: TAHITI
19: EL SALVADOR
20: GERMANY
21: IRELAND