Team Hawai‘i wins at ISA Junior Championship

PLAYA VENAO, Panama — In a thrilling final day of competition at the DAKINE ISA World Junior Surfing Championship Presented by Billabong, which was run in ultra-fun waves at the Playa Venao beachbreak, Team Hawai‘i won two of three individual Gold Medals and managed to win its first Team Gold Medal since 2005.

Two of the youngest Hawaiians on the team, 14-year-old Dax McGill (competing in Girls Under-18) and 14-year-old Kalani David (Boys Under-16) carried the Aloha State flag proudly as they were chaired up the beach by teammates after winning their respective divisions. Brazil’s Matheus Navarro, one of the more dynamic, entertaining and innovative surfers of the event, won the Gold Medal in Boys Under-18.

Under sunny skies and with light onshore winds blowing, athletes from the 31 nations found a spot on the beach to watch the best 24 surfers remaining in the event on the last day of competition. Many wore their country colors and waved their nation’s flags, even if they no longer had an athlete competing.

After eight days of competition featuring the best junior surfers in the largest and most important under-18 surfing event in the world, Hawai‘i’s coach, Rainos Hayes, stood at the shoreline mid-day beside his other coaches.

A flag pole leaned against his shoulder, and the red, white and blue of the Hawaiian flag waved in the onshore winds above him. All he could do was watch the action in the water and smile. In the girls division, which had begun the week with 81 athletes, three of the four surfers competing for a medal were representing Hawai‘i.

“We’ve had such a beautiful event, and there’s a game going on here, and you do want to win, but that’s kind of far from the focus right now. I’m very proud of all the girls,” said Hayes, who’s been coaching Team Hawai‘i for 17 years. “I told them to go play, go surf, show what you can do. In the end, if you’ve got to take a look at (tactical) situations, that’s fine, but you girls need to go get on waves worth riding and really perform. You’ve earned everything that’s come to you thus far.”

Any nerves that may have been present for the Hawaiian trio of Mahina Maeda, Dax McGill and Tatiana Weston-Webb weren’t noticeable. The three surfers spread across the lineup and caught wave after wave. A Hawaiian sweep wasn’t a given, however, since the other competitor was the only undefeated surfer in the event, Ellie-Jean Coffey of Australia.

With a minute left in the heat, Coffey caught a mid-sized left and completed a series of top turns, and threw a claim when she completed the ride. The score moved her into the first position.

Seconds later, McGill, an ISA first-timer and the youngest surfer in the final, found a left of her own, and the first maneuver set the tone.

“I did that first hit and got super psyched, and saw two more sections coming up and I was like, ‘Let’s whack this thing as hard as I’ve ever whacked something before,’” McGill explained.

She rode the whitewater into the shore, where her Hawaiian teammates were already waiting. Four of the guys went diving into the water to meet her. When the 6.93 score was announced, she was hoisted onto their shoulders and given the champions chair ride all the way to the podium.

“I’m on top of world right now,” McGill said after the heat, the Hawaiian flag draped over her shoulders and a Cheshire cat grin stretching from freckled cheek to freckled cheek. “Thank you to everybody who’s ever supported me. I’m so stoked right now! This is my first year doing ISA and I never thought I could ever make it this far, but I just did. I proved myself wrong.”

Coffey ended up with the Silver Medal. McGill’s teammates, Weston-Webb and Maeda, ended up with the Bronze and Copper Medals, respectively.

The Aloha pride continued in the next final, with two more Hawaiians surfing for medals in the Boys Under-16 division.

In the last two days, Kalani David really began to display the array of aerial maneuvers that has made him one of the most talked-about surfers of his generation. Wave after wave, aerial after aerial, he built the foundation of a Gold Medal-winning score (13.50).

“I woke up really sick this morning. I drank a lot of Vitamin C all morning and watched a lot of surf movies to get ready,” David said. “I’m super stoked right now. It means the world to me to win the Gold Medal. Being in a contest with junior surfers from all around the world, it definitely is something I’ll remember forever.”

David’s Gold Medal performance, along with Josh Moniz’s Copper Medal solidified Team Hawai‘i’s position atop the standings. Japan’s Takumi Nakamura finished in second to win the Silver Medal, while Costa Rica’s Noe Mar McGonagle won the Bronze.

Girls Under-18 Final

Gold: Dax McGill (HAW) – 12.60

Silver: Ellie Jean Coffey (AUS) – 9.20

Bronze: Tatiana W-Webb (HAW) – 8.53

Copper: Mahina Maeda (HAW) – 8.24

Boys Under-16 Final

Gold: Kalani David (HAW) – 13.50

Silver: Takumi Nakamura (JPN) – 13.40

Bronze: Noe Mar McGonagle (CRC) – 11.34

Copper: Josh Moniz (HAW) – 11.17

Boys Under-18 Final

Gold: Matheus Navarro (BRA) – 16.93

Silver: Deivid Silva (BRA) – 16.83

Bronze: Vasco Ribeiro (POR) – 11.77

Copper: Joshua Hay (AUS) – 11.37

Final ISA World

Juniors Team Ranking

Gold: Hawaii

Silver: Australia

Bronze: Brazil

Copper: USA

5. Japan

6. France

7. Peru

8. Portugal

9. South Africa

10. New Zealand

11. Costa Rica

12. Tahiti

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