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ISA World Surfing Games Brings Olympic Qualification Scenarios into Focus

Surf City continued to pump on day five of the 2023 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games (WSG), with solid 6-8 foot surf providing the ultimate stage for endless excitement and drama. Men’s Main Round 4 kicked off the day, along with Women’s Repechage Round 3.


It was then high-octane action all afternoon as Men’s Repechage Rounds 2, 3 and 4 were completed.

Men’s Main Round 4 was full of fireworks from Tokyo 2020 Olympians. Billy Stairmand (NZL) posted the first excellent score of the day (8.00) to progress ahead of Gabriel Medina (BRA), who also moved into Main Round 5. Lucca Mesinas (PER) brought his devastating backhand attack, blasting a huge two-turn combo for an 8.33 and advancement along with Rio Waida (INA).

Olympic Silver Medalist and defending ISA Gold Medalist Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) also managed to claim yet another win in Heat 6, but the real drama occurred in Heat 3. Miguel Tudela (PER) maintained control throughout, but Leandro Usuna (ARG) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) were locked in a tight battle and by heat’s end, the Italian was sent to the Repechage.

John John Florence, Team USA / Photo: Sean Evans


Alan Cleland Jr. (MEX) has been providing some of the most exciting moments of the event. With no notable scores and 5 minutes remaining in his Main Round 3 heat yesterday Cleland lost his board and had to swim in. After racing back out he was able to post two scores in the space of a minute to progress. The 20-year-old has been using an impressive combination of railwork and progression to set himself apart and today he provided the highest numbers of Main Round 4.

“You surf for what the criteria is and just keep it going,” Cleland said, “Because sometimes you think you’ve got it but you don’t, so just pretty much surf out of your skin on every wave you get a chance to and do what you got to do.”

John John Florence (USA) is not a name you would expect to see in the Repechage Rounds, yet he surfed through three Repechage heats today after falling out of the Main Round on day two. His high point was a last second wave in Repechage Round 2, Heat 11 that looked like a write-off, until he brought the magic that he is known for and posted an 8.00.

“The last wave came, there was like a minute left and I didn’t really have a second score, and I want to surf these heats the best I can. I was kind of under the whitewater on taking off on it and so I was kind of bouncy and I got to my feet and there was no wall. I saw a little wedge down the line and I was like, the only way I’m getting a score is doing an air on this and so it worked out.”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympian and two-time WSL Champion has been enjoying surfing with an international field, including those in Heat 11, Liu Ming Jang (TPE), Keith Lewis (TTO) and Robert Vysloužil (CZE).

“(The format) allows so much opportunity for people all over the world to really be in this event. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed the most about being in this event, is like the surfers coming from all over the world, countries you would never imagine. It’s really cool. Everyone is really stoked and the energy is really good. It’s been fun to be a part of it like that.”


Repechage highlights were also delivered by Eeli Timperi (FIN), Lenni Jensen (GER), and local Salvadoran Porfirio Miranda (ESA), while Levi Young (CAN) claimed the highest single Men’s wave score of the event, a 9.00. Meanwhile, Joshe Faulkner (RSA) was on a heater all day, surfing and winning each of his three heats over many big names.

Joshe Faulkner, Team South Africa / Photo: Sean Evans


The best moments of Women’s Repechage Round 3 went to two Tokyo 2020 Olympians, Daniella Rosas (PER) and Anat Lelior (ISR), though Great Britain’s Vittoria Farmer was able to collect the highest single wave score of the day, an 8.33.

The results came down to the wire in Women’s Repechage Round 3, Heat 8. Nadia Erostarbe (ESP) was able to easily claim the win, however the three other women in the heat were left waiting for scores after the buzzer. In a heartbreak moment Yolanda Hopkins (POR) was the first Tokyo 2020 Olympian to be eliminated from competition when her score dropped. That left Nibie Blancada (PHI) and Lucia Indurain (ESP) each with a good chance to progress. The emotion for Indurain was palpable and tears flowed as she received the score that meant she would advance.

“I know that my surfing is up to the level, but if you don't catch waves you are not able to show it,” Indurain said. “Thankfully I got that last wave that allowed me to show my surfing and move forward. Sometimes 15 minutes passes by so fast, and it’s so hard, but finally everything went right.”

Sarah Baum, Team South Africa / Photo: Jersson Barboza


Multiple Paris 2024 Olympic Games continental qualification scenarios came into clearer focus throughout the day.

One woman from New Zealand is now guaranteed to claim the Oceania slot. Paige Hareb is in the driver’s seat, holding her position in the Main Round and sitting within the Quality Control measure (top 30 WSG ranked surfers). Her teammate Saffi Vette is still in the running, however Vette’s road through Repechage will be a much steeper hill to climb.

The African Women’s slot is still within reach for two South African teammates. Zoe Steyn and Sarah Baum currently have an equal chance as they progress together through Repechage, however they still need to make two more heats to be eligible within Quality Control. Despite the pressure, Baum is keeping calm and focused.

“Qualification is definitely on my mind,” Baum said. “It’s spoken about a lot over here so I’m just trying to kind of acknowledge it and trying to block it out as well. I’m just trying to focus on myself and my own surfing. I feel like I gain momentum surfing more heats, so it’s not the hard way around, it’s just the longer way around. So, yeah, we’ll get there.”

Competition will resume tomorrow at 8:00am CST with Women’s Main Round 4 at La Bocana and Women’s Repechage Round 4 at El Sunzal.

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