Power and progression were on display in equal amounts on the first day of competition for the 2023 Surf City El Salvador ISA World Surfing Games (WSG). Qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was front of mind for most competitors, with a total of eight surfers, four men and four women, able to secure their Olympic slots by event’s end.
The peak at La Bocana provided the opportunity for non-stop action in the first 24 heats of Men’s Main Round 1, while the same number of heats in Women’s Main Round 1 were completed at the long, right point of El Sunzal, where deep rails turns garnered the top numbers.
Gabriel Medina, Team Brazil / Photo: Sean Evans
Early highlights in the Men’s division came from Guilherme Ribeiro (POR) and Carlos Muñoz (CRC), before Sebastián Williams (MEX) took to the skies and posted the highest single wave score of the day, an 8.77.
It was Gabriel Medina (BRA) who really pushed the progression, however. The three-time WSL Champion collected the highest heat total of the day (16.43) on the strength of his incredible backhand air attack. Though he is currently sitting behind teammates João Chianca and Filipe Toledo on the WSL rankings, which only allow two surfers to qualify per nation, Medina is looking towards the waves of Teahupo’o, Tahiti for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“It’s step-by-step, we have great competitors coming from Brazil,” Medina said.” There’s only two spots and it’s exciting to be there fighting for one of those spots. I love Tahiti, it’s my favorite stop on tour and I really want to be in the Olympics next year. I’ll do what I can to make it through, let’s see how it goes.”
Carissa Moore, Team USA / Photo: Jersson Barboza
The unique Olympic qualification process for the 2023 WSG means that surfers are competing against others within their continent for Paris 2024 slots. One woman and one man from each of four continents, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, will provisionally qualify through this event.
Tokyo 2020 Olympian Leon Glatzer (GER) looked comfortable as he started strong in his campaign for the Men’s European slot, while South Africa’s Sarah Baum is a clear standout in the race for the Women’s African slot.
Baum posted one of the highest scores of the day in the Women’s division, only topped by the power-duo of USA’s Caroline Marks and Carissa Moore. Marks claimed the highest single wave score of the day in the Women’s division, an 8.50, while Moore used powerful rail work to find the highest heat total of the day for the Women (16.16).
There is a tight race for Olympic qualification within Paris 2024 host nation France. With teammate Johanne Defay already collecting one of the two slots available for women from their nation, 2017 ISA gold medalist and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Pauline Ado will now be competing against both her teammate Vahine Fierro and the entire European field to place highest and secure her place in Paris 2024.
“Obviously the Olympic spots are the main goal, but there’s a lot of heats before that and a lot of days,” Ado said. “It was a challenge to make the team already. We all have that goal in mind but we’re trying to take it heat-by-heat and day-by-day, and that’s what I’m trying to do. That’s what worked two years ago, so hopefully I can put it together again.”
ISA President Fernando Aguerre said:
“It is incredible to be back in beautiful El Salvador with the hopes and dreams of a record number of surfers and nations here to achieve their goals. It’s hard to believe that surfing’s second Olympic cycle is now well and truly underway and the pressure is on.
“For decades the idea of surfing in the Olympic Games was seen as impossible, but now here we are, with all these amazing athletes competing to see their dreams fulfilled. I’m so excited to watch the action and see how the team dynamics and qualification scenarios play out as the event continues, which will be even more exciting with a rising swell.”
Competition will resume tomorrow at 8:00am CST with the continuation of Men’s Main Round 1 at La Bocana and Women’s Main Round 1 at El Sunzal.