Australia Seeking its Seventh Juniors Gold Medal; 2011 Runner-Up South Africa Looking For First Juniors Team Gold in the Largest and Most Important Junior Surfing Competition in the World
DaKine ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
April 14 to 22, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama
There seems to be something in the water, or in the lineups in Australia and South Africa. Both countries have a history of producing some of the top surfers in the sport of surfing, at the junior and professional level. And based on the collective resumes of the two countries’ rosters, both teams will be making a strong push for the top spot on the podium in Panama at the DaKine ISA World Junior Surfing Championships Presented by Billabong.
“The Australians and South Africans always come to ISA events with talented surfers and their eyes set on gold medals,” said Fernando Aguerre, the president of the ISA. “But they’re also spectacular sportsmen and sportswomen, who understand the value of team camaraderie and fair play.”
The two countries are among the 30 nations who will be traveling to compete at Playa Venao, on the west coast of Panama. In total, more than 300 athletes and coaches will take part in the event that brings together the best under-18 surfers in the world.
Australia has been one of the most dominant countries in ISA junior competition. In the nine events since the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship became a stand-alone event, the Australians have won six of nine Team Gold Medals. Last year’s event in Peru was a bit of an off year for the Aussies, as the team had to settle for the Bronze medal when the host, Peru, won the Team Gold.
Pacing the next generation of surfers for Team Australia will be two of the highest-rated juniors on the planet, Creed McTaggart and Cooper Chapman. Both are veterans of ISA competition, having finished in the Top 15 of this event last year. The pair will be complemented by the abilities of Eli Steele, who competed in the Under-16 division in Peru, and Joshua Hay, who’s making his ISA debut.
In the Under-16 division, the Australians will be led by Kai Hing, the youngest-ever Under-16 Australian National Champion. Hing will be joined by Michael Wright, Jacob Wilcox and Luke Hynd, all of whom are ISA newcomers.
For the Australian girls, Nikki Van Dijk will be arriving in Panama with a stellar set of recent contest results, making her one of the young female talents to watch at Playa Venao. Aside from winning a Bronze medal last year in Peru, she’s fresh off a semifinal result at an ASP 6-Star event in Western Australia, and a pair of ASP Pro Junior contest wins to start the year. Aside from Van Dijk, the team will be strengthened by the return of Ellie-Jean Coffey, who finished equal-eighth last year. Also wearing the singlet for Australia will be Bronte Macaulay, who finished runner-up to Van Dijk at the first ASP Pro Junior event of the year. Rounding out the Australian girls roster will be Kirsten Ogden, who’s had quite a bit of success in national contests.
The South Africans will be looking to hold off the Australians once again, while improving on their own placing in Panama. The Silver medalists in 2011, the Rainbow Nation will be seeking its first Team Gold Medal in ISA World Junior Surfing Championship competition.
The most decorated surfers on the South African roster will be its top female competitor, Sarah Baum, and top male competitor, Dylan Lightfoot.
The 18-year-old Baum was a Silver medalist at the inaugural ISA China Cup in January, despite an off-year at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in 2011. In 2010, she won the Bronze medal in New Zealand. Joining Baum in Panama will be Emma Smith, Chanella Botha and Nicole Pallet.
Along with various strong national results, Lightfoot won the Silver medal last year in the Under-16 division, and will be looking to repeat his podium-worthy performance in the Under-18 division this year. Slade Prestwich is also making the move to the Under-18 division and will be looking for his first ISA medal. Joshua Smit and Mikey Venter are also hoping to translate their strong contest resumes into success at the international level.
Filling in where Lightfoot and Prestwich have since moved on are a group of young, up-and-coming talents. Both Max Armstrong and Benji Brand have won national titles and will be surfing in Panama for the first time. Steffen Burrows and Matthew McGillivray will also be competing in an ISA World Championship for the first time, and are excited to be representing their country.
“I am proud to have been selected to represent South Africa at the [ISA World Junior Surfing Championship] in Panama,” McGillivray said. “It has always been a dream of mine.”
The DaKine ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong begins on April 14 with the traditional ISA Opening Ceremony, which includes a Parade of Nations and the Sands of the World Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony and the competition, which starts on April 15, can be viewed live at www.dakineisawjsc.com/live.
Australia Junior National Team
Nikki Van Dijk
South Africa Junior National Team