ISA World Junior Surfing Champs 2022 has come to a close after a week of world class waves featuring the top junior surfers from across the globe. Worlds was an iconic event for SA in a number of ways. Tash Mentasti became the first woman to coach a national team, ever. And Luke Thompson fought back from the repecharge rounds to bring home the u18 Boys bronze medal. All in all, South Africa finished 10th out of 45 countries.
The surfers were blessed with solid swell and glassy conditions for the majority of the event. With a team that thrived on rail surfing, these conditions were perfect for our boys and girls to showcase their skills.
We caught up with Alan van Gysen who travelled with the SA team and gave us an insight on what went down. “Due to Covid our surfers have only been surfing locally and this was the first time the juniors have competed internationally in two and a half years. So going into it we weren’t quite sure how we ‘d stack up against the other nations.
Having wrapped up now it’s amazing to see just how well we did as a country. To finish 10th out of 45 nations is pretty impressive and having Luke finish 3rd was the cherry on top. The u18 Boys division was probably the most competitive division with so many big names and for him to get the bronze medal is a massive achievement. But, I think the thing that stood out the most for me was the support from our team members for one another. Every single surfer was at every one of their teammates’ heats, cheering them on. There was such an amazing vibe and team spirit. Even the judges and spectators were taken aback by the South African team spirit. It was special to see. Something that was unique to our support was the vuvuzela. Most other teams would just stand and shout but we had the vuvuzela and it gave us a unique voice and set us apart from the other nations.
The waves cooked every day, which really allowed the surfers to put on a show. They call this place ‘Surf City’ and it really is that. There are so many good waves in the area. Our surfers put on a show throughout the event and didn’t ever hold back.
Overall it was an amazing experience. We had a very young team, only two of them had been to Worlds before, so lots of experience was gained. I’m excited to see what we can do next year having gained all this experience and got the result we did.”
An inexperienced SA team came together and put on a performance they can be proud of. With so many up and coming surfers in our country it’s going to be exciting to watch what happens over the next few years.
Here’s what Luke had to say about his bronze medal result, “I couldn’t be more happy to finish my last year in U18’s with a 3rd place finish at ISA World Junior Champs! Can’t really put into words what this result means to me, all the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication paid off. The day before finals day I had to surf 4 heats and it was a crazy day with the best waves I think I’ve surfed in a comp, had some crazy heats with some of the best U18’s in the world! Luke Swanson and I managed to get into a nice rhythm and surfed through repos all the way to the final. A huge well done to him for taking out the win and a huge thank you to team South Africa.”
Images by – Alan Van Gysen