Saturday, May 21, 2022 |
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LIHU‘E — Heading into the final day of action at the Quiksilver ISA Junior World Surfing Championship at Piha Beach in New Zealand, five of the 12 members of the Verizon Wireless Hawai‘i Team are still in the hunt for points to add to the Ambassadors of Aloha tally.
The Hawaiians are in first place as action is set to reach its conclusion, with a total of 6,420 points. Australia trails just behind with 6,405.
The United States, which held the lead prior to Day 7, now sits in third with 5,853 points.
Kaua‘i’s Koa Smith has made it through to Round 6 of the Boys Under 16 bracket without a defeat, one of just four remaining surfers in his division to have advanced through every heat to this point.
Malia Manuel, also from Kaua‘i, has accomplished the same feat in the Girls Under 18 division as she is one of four surfers unbeaten after four qualifying heats.
Also alive for Team Hawai‘i are Alessa Quizon, who has advanced to Round 7 of the Repercharge bracket (surfers with one loss), as well as Tanner Hendrickson and Keanu Asing, who have each made it to Round 9 of the Boys Under 18 Repercharge.
Asing was the gold-medal winner at last year’s ISA event held in Ecuador.
The five remaing competitors gives Team Hawai‘i the largest group still in the field, but Team Australia still has an edge.
The four Australian surfers remaining — Tyler Wright and Felicity Palmateer in the Girls Under 18, Jordin Watson in the Boys Under 18 and Matt Bantring in the Boys Under 16 — have all advanced through the qualifying heats without a defeat.
“They’ve got mistakes to give,” said Andy Melamed, Hawai‘i World Team editorial correspondent and father of Kaua‘i’s Nage Melamed, another of the 12 surfers on the squad.
Reaching the final provides opportunity for big points compared to the rest of the event, so having all those unbeaten surfers gives the Australians some cushion and a leg up on the competition.
The United States team started the day with 10 surfers still alive, but saw six eliminated, while the remaining four all have one defeat.
Hawai‘i still carries the images of last year’s final day imprinted in its memory, as it saw Australia come from behind in the event’s final heat to move to the top of the podium.
Melamed said the team is remaining “really humble” because they know the Australians, having four unbeaten surfers, hold the advantage.
The youth of the team is another reason for the humble approach, as this was really thought of as a rebuilding year.
But the five Hawaiians still alive all have the ability to pile on the points and continue to advance. That team concept separates the ISA Championship from almost any other surf competition.
“It’s 12 people relying on each other to get a victory,” said Melamed.
Though they are staying in three houses near the event site, once the action gets underway, the team is all together and showing its Aloha spirit.
The Aussie crew and their fans are expected to be quite vocal from the shoreline as the finale plays out.
“Australia is an insanely energetic and spirited country,” Melamed said.
Hawai‘i’s junior program has grown by leaps and bounds in just the past five years, now having sponsors like Verizon Wireless and the Hard Rock Cafe to increase its visibility and allow the team to be more active in the community.
They also no longer have to worry about scraping together enough funds just to compete.
Surfers still alive in the Boys Under 16 event are Smith, Bantring, Ben Poulter (New Zealand) and Hiroti Arai (Japan) in the main draw, as well as Vasco Ribeiro (Portugal), Kolohe Andino (USA), Jake Halstead (USA) and Trevor Thorton (USA) in the Repercharge bracket.
In the Boys Under 18 division, there is Watson, Tamaroa McComb (Tahiti), Frederico de Morais (Portugal) and Beyrick de Vries (South Africe), along with Asing, Hendrickson, Dimitri Ouvre (France) and Gabriel Medina (Brazil) in the Repercharge.
The Girls Under 18 sees Manuel, Wright, Palmateer and Sarah Baum (South Africa) unbeaten, along with Quizon, Sarah Mason (New Zealand), Canelle Bulard (France) and Lakey Peterson (USA) rounding out the Repercharge.
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