Team Australia continued its dominance of the junior surfing scene, winning the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Champions for a fifth consecutive year in New Zealand today.
In dramatic fashion, wins to Lennox Head's Tyler Wright and Port Macquarie's Matt Banting lifted Team Australia into the top spot.
Coming into the final day of competition ranked second behind Hawaii, Australia rallied to finish in the lead with 6015-points nearly 1000 clear of Hawaii (5038) in second and the USA (4958) in third.
Australia's win is also their sixth team's title victory since the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship was launched eight years ago in 2003.
Australian Head Coach Martin Dunn summed up his team's performance.
“It‘s great that we ended up winning,” he said.
“A day or so ago it was looking like Hawaii and the USA were in the box seat. But our surfers had to make finals in the end and they did. The reality is that our surfers are experienced and don't fault under pressure. And that's what gave us the points to win the overall team's title.”
The day's finals represented an emotional-packed climax to the pinnacle junior event for under 18 surfers, which saw over 200 elite competitors from 21 countries being reduced to only 12 finalists across the Under 18 and 16 Boys and Under 18 Girls divisions.
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said it was an amazing week. “What a last heat, what a day, what a week,” said Aguerre.
“It was an amazing week of surfing with New Zealand warmth. But most importantly, it was about the surfing camaraderie. The ISA World Surfing tribe came together to celebrate surfing and junior surfing. This event will go down in history as one of the greatest ever! Thanks to Quiksilver for their generous support of junior surfing around the world, which does help us build a better surfing future.”
Competitors took advantage of the 3ft (1m) right-hand bowls, busting out their full competition repertoires in front of a raucous, large crowd whilst battling it out for all-important medals.
The first final was a tight battle with Australia's Matt Banting (Port Macquarie, NSW) stamping his name on the world surfing stage by netting his maiden ISA world title in the Under 16 boy's division.
Banting, 15, was the standout in the tricky conditions, netting an 8.30 and 7.60 with a barrage of vertical backhand turns to take the gold medal.
The talented young gun kept a level head in the high-pressure final, rising to the occasion to finish with a final-winning total of 15.90 (out of a possible 20) to beat American's Jake Halstead (11.6), Hawaii's Koa Smith (10.40) and Japan's Hiroti Arai (10.24).
“I'm so happy,” said Banting.
“It was a really hard final with a lack of waves. It changed just before we went out and I was lucky to get a couple of runners. It's sick.”
Lennox Head star Tyler Wright continued Australia's stronghold on the prestigious competition, retaining her Under 18 Girls title in spectacular fashion.
Wright, who became the youngest ever surfer to win an ASP World Tour event, amassed a 16.00 two-wave combined total (out of a possible 20) to defeat Hawaii's Alessa Quizon (12.74), South Africa's Sarah Baum (9.72), and the USA's Lakey Peterson (9.66).
“I feel on top of the world,” said Wright.
“It's two years in a row for me in one of the highest levels of competitions there is. It was a tough final, so I'm just really happy with the result. I love this event. I hope to come back next year.”
But the talented Aussie didn't have it all her own way, surviving a last-minute comeback by Quizon. The skillful Hawaiian performed a big aerial on her second last ride to nail an 8.30 and keep her hopes alive.
Showing experience, Wright hit back scoring an 8.60 on her last wave to claim the gold medal.
“I kept to my own game plan,” said Wright. “Alessa (Quizon) did an air on one of her last waves, but I got a good one straight after. It felt unreal to be chaired by my team once I got to the beach. I feel privileged.”
In winning, Wright joined 3 x ASP World champion Stephanie Gilmore (Coolangatta, Qld) as only one of two surfers to have ever claimed back-to-back ISA World Junior Surfing Championship titles.
Wright added, “I'm lost for words,” she said. “I can't say much more. I'm one of the happiest kids ever.”
With two Australian victories, the scene was set for an epic final. And what a spectacle it was.
Brazilian Gabriel Medina (Maresias) blew away his competitors with a near-perfect final, netting the highest individual wave score (10) and two-wave combined total (19.90) of the event.
Backing up his third placing at the ASP World Pro Junior championships in Narrabeen two weeks ago, Medina was at his brilliant best, unleashing multiple high-flying aerial moves to smash Australian Jordi Watson (Currarong), Tahiti's Tamaroa McComb, and South Africa's Beyrick De Vries.
Medina, who made it through to the final via the sudden-death repechage round, finishing almost 5 points ahead of Watson (14.92) in second, with McComb (14.90) in third and De Vries (12.96) in fourth.
“I'm feeling great,” said Medina. “I'm totally happy. The waves were so good for airs. I just love New Zealand.”
Earlier in the day, New Zealand's hopes of a medal were crushed with both Sarah Mason and Ben Poulter being eliminated.
Mason lost in repechage seven of the Under 18 Girls to place 8th, while Poulter was edged out in repechage round ten of the Under 16 boy's division to finish 6th overall.
The host nation New Zealand finished 7th overall with 3686 points.
The Olympic-style ISA Aloha Cup, which pits national teams against each other, was won by Team Australia yesterday.
Led by power surfer Watson and a team consisting of Tyler Wright, Tim MacDonald, Thomas Woods and Wade Carmichael, Australia won the gold with a combination of 62.97 points.
France (59.77) finished in second, with South Africa (50.34) in third and Hawaii (49.51) in fourth.
The prestigious event closed with an emotional Closing Ceremony with warm words from ISA President Fernando Aguerre and former ASP World Champion Martin Potter.
Medals were awarded, the winning nations' anthems were played out loud and the ISA´s Surfing Camaraderie spirit was displayed at Piha Beach as an amazing way to finish the event.
The Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship will be back next year!