From Tom Curren to Cristobal de Col: Thirty-Plus Years of Crowning Rising Stars

Posted - News Posted for ISA News.

Peru’s Cristobal de Col is part of the new generation of surfers, where taking to the air is essential to a skillset. His aerial ability proved crucial in winning his first individual Gold Medal last year. Photo: ISA/Munoz

A Look Into the History of the DaKine ISA World Junior Championship Presented by Billabong Unveils a Veritable Who’s-Who of Surfing’s Stars

DaKine ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong
April 14 to 22, 2012
Playa Venao, Panama

Every future surf star has to have a stage on which to first shine. Before he became “Tom Curren, three-time ASP World Champion,” Tom Curren was a quiet teenager from Santa Barbara with heaps of talent. He arrived in Biarritz, France in 1980 as a known name in the amateur ranks, but still five years from true stardom. Competing in the inaugural Junior division of the ISA World Championship (later the ISA World Surfing Games), Curren won the Gold Medal, establishing himself as the top Junior surfer in the world.

Thirty-two years later, the surf world has undergone tremendous evolution and growth, from new wave frontiers to hefty sponsor contracts to live Internet webcasts. One constant is that the largest and most important junior surfing competition remains the one produced by the ISA. This year, the next generation of surf stars will be traveling to Playa Venao, Panama for the DaKine ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong, which begins on April 14.

“One of the great things about the Juniors event is the element of surprise,” said Fernando Aguerre, the President of the ISA. “Some of the kids are already stars-in-the-making, some come from countries where they can’t get the exposure to be stars. But at this event, they all come to the same place and the true champions rise to the top. It’s been like that since I joined the ISA over 15 years ago.”

In the years since Curren won the first Junior Gold Medal, some of surfing’s biggest names have followed in his footsteps: from two-time World Champion Damien Hardman (Junior Gold Medalist, 1984), to former ASP top 16, Kalani Robb and Dean Morrison (1994 and 1998 respectively) to four-time Women’s World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (2004, 2005) to 2011 World Tour standout, Gabriel Medina (2010).

Due to the increasing talent level and popularity of Junior surfing, the ISA created the stand-alone Juniors event in 2003, which included three divisions: Under-18 Boys, Under-18 Girls, and Under-16 Boys. The Under-16 division has uncovered future stars at an even younger age: South Africa’s Jordy Smith (Gold Medal in 2003) stood atop the medal podium years before becoming a standout on the World Tour; Owen Wright (2006) did the same five years prior to going head-to-head with Kelly Slater in three consecutive ASP event finals.

For many young athletes, the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship is a first opportunity to test their ability against the top young surfers from around the world and get a true gauge for where they stand. Some establish themselves among the elite, others realize there is still work to be done.

Last year, with his country in fifth place in the standings, rising star Cristobal de Col proved that he was more than a talented freesurfer. On the final day of competition, in 8- to 10-foot waves in Peru, de Col out-surfed an accomplished group of fellow finalists in the Under-18 Boys Division, winning his first ISA individual Gold Medal. The win also moved the Peruvians to the top of the standings for their first Team Gold Medal.

As the nearly 300 athletes make final preparations for the 2012 edition of the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, they can look to the history of the competitors who preceded them in ISA World Juniors competition as a potential benchmark for where their careers may lead. For some boys and girls, this will be an event that sets their surfing career along the course they’d always dreamed, while others will take stock in having surfed against the sport’s future biggest stars.

The Opening Ceremony (which will take place on April 14) and the competition (which starts on April 15) can be viewed live at

Past ISA Junior Gold Medalists
Under 18 Boys
1980 – Biarritz, France: Tom Curren (USA)
1982 – Gold Coast, Australia: Bryce Ellis (AUS)
1984 – Huntington Beach, USA: Damien Hardman (AUS)
1986 – Newquay, England: Vetea David (TAH)
1988 – Aguadilla, Puerto Rico: Chris Brown (USA)
1990 – Chiba, Japan: Shane Bevan (AUS)
1992 – Lacanau, France: Chad Edser (AUS)
1994 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Kalani Robb (HAW)
1996 – Huntington Beach, USA: Ben Bourgeois (USA)
1998 – Carcavelos, Portugal: Dean Morrison (AUS)
2000 – Porto de Galinhas, Brazil: Joel Centeio (HAW)
2002 – Durban, South Africa: Warwick Wright (RSA)
2003 – Durban, South Africa: Ben Dunn (AUS)
2004 – Papenoo, Tahiti: James Wood (AUS)
2005 – Huntington Beach, USA: Jefferson Silva (BRA)
2006 – Maresias, Brazil: Julian Wilson (AUS)
2007 – Costa de Caparica, Portugal: Jadson André (BRA)
2008 – Seignosse, France: Alejo Muniz (BRA)
2009 – Salinas, Ecuador: Dean Bowen (AUS)
2010 – Piha Beach, New Zealand: Gabriel Medina (BRA)
2011 – Punta Hermosa, Peru: Cristobal De Col (PER)

Under 18 Girls
2003 – Durban, South Africa: Jesse Miley Dyer (AUS)
2004 – Papenoo, Tahiti: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2005 – Huntington Beach, USA: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
2006 – Maresias, Brazil: Pauline Ado (FRA)
2007 – Costa de Caparica, Portugal: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
2008 – Seignosse, France: Laura Enever (AUS)
2009 – Salinas, Ecuador: Tyler Wright (AUS)
2010 – Piha Beach, New Zealand: Tyler Wright (AUS)
2011 – Punta Hermosa, Peru: Canelle Bulard (FRA)

Under 16 Boys
2003 – Durban, South Africa: Jordy Smith (RSA)
2004 – Papenoo, Tahiti: Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
2005 – Huntington Beach, USA: Tonino Benson (HAW)
2006 – Maresias, Brazil: Owen Wright (AUS)
2007 – Costa de Caparica, Portugal: Garret Parkes (AUS)
2008 – Seignosse, France: Tamaroa McComb (TAH)
2009 – Salinas, Ecuador: Keanu Asing (HAW)
2010 – Piha Beach, New Zealand: Matt Banting (AUS)
2011 – Punta Hermosa, Peru: Filipe Toledo (BRA)

About the International Surfing Association:

The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Para Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; World StandUp Paddle (SUP, both surfing and racing) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012; and World Para Surfing Champions in 2015.

ISA membership includes the surfing National Federations of 108 countries on five continents. The ISA is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (ARG). The Executive Committee includes four Vice-Presidents Karín Sierralta (PER), Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL), Athletes’ Commission Chair Justine Dupont (FRA), Regular Members Atsushi Sakai (JPN) and Jean Luc Arassus (FRA) and ISA Executive Director Robert Fasulo as Ex-officio Member.

Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California (USA).