Team USA Wins 2017 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship


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Updated 164d ago

Team USA has been crowned the Team World Champion at the 2017 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship in Hyuga, Japan.

Propelled to the top by six individual medals, including the Girls’ U-16 Medal from Alyssa Spencer, Team USA narrowly held off Team Hawaii in the race to the top spot. This is only Team USA’s second title in the history of the event, following their win in 2015.

Trailing USA by only 263 points, Team Hawaii earned the silver medal with five individual medals of their own, Japan with the bronze, and Australia with the copper.

ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, said: “What an incredible week of competition. We have witnessed history here in Japan on many levels. We crowned the first ISA World Champions in Japan in 27 years and also saw new nations earn their first Medals. The sport of Surfing is growing and advancing all around the world as it was fully on display at the 2017 VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.

“I would like to thank all involved in the event, the organizers, the City of Hyuga, the prefecture of Miyazaki, the sponsors, and the title sponsor, Vissla, for supporting the future generation of surfers since 2014.

“We are looking into the future of Surfing. We certainly will see some of the athletes that competed this week in Japan among those representing their nations at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in three years.”

In the Boys’ Finals Team Japan and Argentina made history as Joh Azuchi (JPN, U-16) and Ignacio Gundesen (ARG, U-18) earned the first-ever medals for their respective nations in the event, displaying the development and growth of the sport in emerging surfing countries around the world.

Ignacio Gundesen, Argentina's first world junior champion.

Ignacio Gundesen, Argentina's first world junior champion.

© 2018 - Ben Reed

Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy entered an elite group of world-class surfers, earning her second ISA Junior World Champion Title, a feat that has also been accomplished by current WSL stars Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Tyler Wright (AUS), and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS).

After four repechage finals on Sunday, the grand finals took place with a packed crowd attending to witness the crowning of the world champions.

The U-16 Girls kicked off the grand finals in a duel between Hawaii and USA, a pivotal point in the race for the team. USA’s Alyssa Spencer earned her first medal of the event. Hawaii’s Keala Tomoda-Bannert kept Hawaii close in the team rankings, earning the silver medal. Samantha Sibley (USA) earned the bronze and Gabriela Bryan (HAW) the copper.

“This has been my dream since I started surfing,” said Spencer. “I can’t believe it’s actually true. I’m speechless. I wanted the so bad and getting that nine right off the bat boosted my confidence so much. After that I just needed another score to back it up.

“I would be so honored to represent the USA in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but I know it will take a lot of hard work because there are so many girls that rip.”

Alyssa Spencer.

Alyssa Spencer.

© 2018 - Ben Reed

The U-16 Boy’s grand final followed, as the beach filled with thousands of spectators to root on the home-nation heroes Joh Azuchi and Keanu Chris Kamiyama.

Azuchi’s last wave of 8.6 was just enough to boost him into the lead ahead of USA’s Taro Watanabe by a narrow margin of 0.16 points. The crowd erupted in cheers and stormed to the water’s edge to greet Azuchi, their first-ever ISA Junior World Champion. USA’s Watanabe earned the silver, Japan’s Kamiyama the bronze, and Brazil’s Lucas Vicente the copper.

The Girls U-18 grand final was next, featuring two past ISA Junior World Champions Summer Macedo (2015) and Brisa Hennessy (HAW). Hennessy, the defending medalist, had a tough time finding waves at the beginning of the heat, but found her rhythm in the final minutes, earning two wave scores of 8.5 and 7.77. Hennessy jumped into first followed by Leilani McGonagle (CRC) with the silver, Summer Macedo (HAW) with the bronze, and Kirra Pinkerton (USA) with the copper.

Brissa Hennessy.

Brissa Hennessy.

© 2018 - Ben Reed

“It was a crazy eight days,” said Hennessy. “I am so happy and grateful. My team worked so hard this week. I am so proud to represent Hawaii and hold my flag up high. I would tell young girls that are aspiring professional surfers at home to enjoy it and have fun. The best surfers out there are the ones having fun and enjoying the sport.”

The Boys U-18 grand final, the last of the day, would decide if USA or Hawaii would take home the Team Medal. However, Argentina’s Ignacio Gundesen had plans of his own and quickly jumped out to the lead which held through the end of the heat. Gundesen earned the first junior Medal for Argentina, drawing tears of joy from his team that received him on the beach. USA’s Noah Hill earned the silver Medal ahead of Hawaii’s Cody Young, assuring a Team Medal for USA. Australia’s Dylan Moffat came in fourth with the copper.

“I am so happy to win this!” said Gundesen. “I am so proud that I’ve earned a top eight spot for my country to compete in the ISA Aloha Cup next year. I couldn’t have done this without my team. This is for them. This is for Argentina.”
Final results
1 (Gold) – USA
2 (Silver) – Hawaii
3 (Bronze) – Japan
4 (Copper) – Australia
5 – France
6 – Brazil
7 – Costa Rica
8 – Argentina
9 – Portugal
10 – New Zealand

Girls U-16
1 (Gold) – Alyssa Spencer (USA)
2 (Silver) – Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW)
3 (Bronze) – Samantha Sibley (USA)
4 (Copper) – Gabriela Bryan (HAW)

Boys U-16
1 (Gold) – Joh Azuchi (JPN)
2 (Silver) – Taro Watanabe (USA)
3 (Bronze) – Keanu Chris Kamiyama (JPN)
4 (Copper) – Lucas Vicente (BRA)

Girls U-18
1 (Gold) – Brisa Hennessy (HAW)
2 (Silver) – Leilani McGonagle (CRC)
3 (Bronze) – Summer Macedo (HAW)
4 (Copper) – Kirra Pinkerton (USA)

Boys U-18
1 (Gold) – Ignacio Gundesen (ARG)
2 (Silver) – Noah Hill (USA)
3 (Bronze) – Cody Young (HAW)
4 (Copper) – Dylan Moffat (AUS)