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Powerful Performances Set Up Finals Day: SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western

Finals day is set at the World Surf League (WSL) SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western. A full day of competition saw brilliant performances from Southern California’s locals and an international contingent alike. With world-class matchups and more swell on the way, the stage is now set for an epic Finals Day tomorrow.

Pictured:Kauli Vaast (FRA) put on a near-perfect performance with his powerful forehand. Credit: © WSL / Morris

The day's action kicked off with a head-to-head matchup featuring one of Hawaii/Tahiti Nui’s emerging competitors, Brodi Sale (HAW), and North America’s Taro Watanabe (USA). It was a close match but Sale ultimately got the win and ticket into the Quarterfinals. Heat 3 was filled with fireworks as Tahiti’s Kauli Vaast (FRA) unloaded three powerful, dynamic maneuvers to earn an excellent 8.50 (out of a possible 10) to open up against Saxon Reber (AUS).

Vaast then backed it up with a near-perfect 9.00, totaling a day’s best 17.50 (out of a possible 20) and placing Reber in a combination situation, needing two scores as time expired. “Today is really good; it’s better than the first day we surfed because it’s a little bit bigger,” said Vaast. “It’s still offshore; there’s power on the wave so that you can do the big turns, and I got a couple of good waves. We’re man-on-man now, and there’s more opportunity to express your surfing and stoked to get through that heat.”

A Southern Californian clash featuring Encinitas’ own Levi Slawson and San Clemnte’s Kade Matson went down in Heat 4. Matson controlled a majority of the heat with a 7.20 and 5.67, leaving the local hero needing a solid score in the dying seconds. With the clock counting down, Slawson was able to deliver multiple aggressive backhand turns to accrue a 6.60 and the heat win.

“This is everything to me and just an amazing privilege for me to have a wildcard into this event,” said Slawson. “I’ve been focusing on a lot of mental things and competing, and just stay calm. The last few nights I haven’t slept just being so excited for this event and Kade Matson is one of the best surfers in this age group in the world so I knew I was going to have to do a lot to win, I have so much respect for him.”

Matson’s fellow San Clemente surfer Jett Schilling faced a similar fate at the hands of an in-form, Opening Round victor, Jarvis Earle (AUS). Maui, Hawaii’s Jackson Bunch picked up right where he left off from his Opening Round win and posted an excellent 16.77 heat total. Bunch showed his potential earlier this year, earning a runner-up at Ala Moana Bowls, and put his competitors on notice once again today with a commanding win over Adur Amatriain (EUK).

“I knew the tide was coming up and peaking in my heat, so I just wanted to stay busy,” said Bunch. “My first wave, I ended up falling, so I just stayed calm then started getting my waves. Then I got that first eight, kept going and catching waves, and then got my next eight, so I’m psyched. I’ll see what conditions are like tomorrow, and if it’s bigger, I’ll be more selective, but we’ll see what the swell brings.”

Also earning clutch Round of 16 victories and spots into Finals Day, are Bunch’s fellow Maui competitor Eli Hanneman, Australia’s Oscar Berry, and North America No. 1 Alan Cleland (MEX). Cleland’s jaw-dropping performance earned him yet another 17-point heat total, and he now has two of the three highest totals of the event.

Southern Californians Keep Pace, World Junior Title Up For Grabs

San Clemente’s Sawyer Lindblad dominated her Round of 16 battle with Elimination Round standout Janire Etxabarri (EUK). Lindblad showcased her signature forehand power to accumulate a 15.10 heat total and left Etxabarri in need of a near-perfect 9.60. This will be Lindblad’s second Quarterfinal showing at the World Junior Championships as she heads into Finals Day.

“I wanted to get a quick start and make sure I was on the best waves, and just building my scores,” said Lindblad. “Now I’ll take the afternoon off, stretch, and make sure I’m ready. It would mean a lot to win this event. I’ve been working really hard and I stayed home to train instead of going to Hawaii, now I’m really excited for tomorrow.” Fellow Southern Californian, and Encinitas’ own, Alyssa Spencer (USA) opened the Round of 16, Heat 1 with a 7.33, continuing her dream run at home over Tahiti’s rising star Aelan Vaast (FRA). But, fellow Southern Californian Kirra Pinkerton (USA) was not so lucky, as she fell to event standout Sierra Kerr (AUS).

A highly-anticipated matchup between former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Luana Silva (BRA) and 15-year-old phenom Erin Brooks (CAN) unraveled in Round of 16 Heat 5. Silva took control early on, but just after the halfway mark, Brooks unleashed her forehand attack, earning an excellent 8.43. Brooks utilized priority in great fashion, posting a 6.60 backup to overtake the lead and win the heat. She now represents the youngest competitor on Finals day.

“I had to do all my surfing in the last 12 minutes, I made pretty much every mistake you can make,” said Brooks. “Luana is such a good surfer, and I respect her a lot, and I’m stoked to beat her in that heat. It’s hard to surf against your friends, I train with her a lot, and once you’re in the water, you go into a different mode.”

Pictured: Brazil's last-standing competitor Laura Raupp looks to add to the country's legacy of World Titles with a big win.Credit: © WSL / Morris

Laura Raupp (BRA) also added her name to Finals Day with another impressive heat victory. She will be joined by Sol Aguirre (PER) and Zahli Kelly (AUS) for a Finals Day showdown to see who is crowned the 2022 World Junior Champion.

Men’s Round of 16 Results:

Heat 1: Brodi Sale (HAW) 11.76 DEF. Taro Watanabe (USA) 10.33

Heat 2: Eli Hanneman (HAW) 13.50 Luke Thompson (RSA) 12.00

Heat 3: Kauli Vaast (FRA) 17.50 DEF. Saxon Reber (AUS) 12.00

Heat 4: Levi Slawson (USA) 13.77 DEF. Kade Matson (USA) 12.87

Heat 5: Jarvis Earle (AUS) 14.97 DEF. Jett Schilling (USA) 12.20

Heat 6: Oscar Berry (AUS) 11.40 DEF. Caua Costa (BRA) 9.00

Heat 7: Jackson Bunch (HAW) 16.77 DEF. Adur Amatriain (EUK) 12.04

Heat 8: Alan Cleland (MEX) 17.40 DEF. Ryan Kainalo (BRA) 12.10

Upcoming Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:

Heat 1: Brodi Sale (HAW) vs. Eli Hanneman (HAW)

Heat 2: Kauli Vaast (FRA) vs. Levi Slawson (USA)

Heat 3: Jarvis Earle (AUS) vs. Oscar Berry (AUS)

Heat 4: Jackson Bunch (HAW) vs. Alan Cleland (MEX)

Women’s Round of 16 Results:

Heat 1: Alyssa Spencer (USA) 11.83 DEF. Aelan Vaast (FRA) 11.80

Heat 2: Laura Raupp (BRA) 11.67 DEF. Rachel Presti (DEU) 11.23

Heat 3: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) 15.10 DEF. Janire Etxabarri (EUK) 10.33

Heat 4: Sol Aguirre (PER) 11.53 DEF. Daniella Rosas (PER) 6.83

Heat 5: Erin Brooks (CAN) 15.03 DEF. Luana Silva (BRA) 13.00

Heat 6: Francisca Veselko (PRT) 14.10 DEF. Sara Wakita (JPN) 8.67

Heat 7: Sierra Kerr (AUS) 12.47 DEF. Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 11.60

Heat 8: Zahli Kelly (AUS) 14.23 DEF Ellie Harrison (AUS) 10.13

Upcoming Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:

Heat 1: Alyssa Spencer (USA) vs. Laura Raupp (BRA)

Heat 2: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) vs. Sol Aguirre (PER)

Heat 3: Erin Brooks (CAN) vs. Francisca Veselko (PRT)

Heat 4: Sierra Kerr (AUS) vs. Zahli Kelly (AUS)WATCH LIVE

The SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western will open on January 9 and hold a competition window through January 15, 2023. Once called ON, the event will be broadcast LIVE on, WSL’s YouTube channel, and the free WSL app. Also, check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners.

The SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western are proudly supported by Sambazon, Best Western, Sports San Diego, Board and Brew, Pura Vida, Sun Diego, and Red Bull.

For more information, please visit


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