The World Surf League (WSL) SAMBAZON World Junior Championships Hosted by Best Western returned to action today in pumping, six-to-eight foot swell pounding the Seaside Reef lineup.
The event’s first eliminations ensued, ending some competitors' World Junior Title dreams and keeping others alive.
Pictured:Kirra Pinkerton (USA) is one step closer to her second World Junior Champion Title.Credit: © WSL / Morris
All eyes were on the final heat of the Elimination Round featuring outstanding talents Sierra Kerr (AUS) and Puamakamae DeSoto (HAW), and the clash lived up to its hype. Kerr dropped the event’s highest single-wave score so far, a near-perfect 9.17 (out of a possible 10).
The Australian representative also accrued one of the event's best heat totals, a 15.50 (out of a possible 20) to hold off DeSoto and move closer to a World Junior Title. Kerr is the youngest competitor still in contention.
“I saw the set and saw it had some wall, and it was some of the best I’ve surfed this break,” said Kerr. “It went a little sideways, and I thought it might not do it, but then I saw the section and knew it would be a big section. I surf here a bit on the reef, so I know where the boil is and how it kind of chips off the boil, so I knew just looking at it where to be.”
2018 World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton (USA) took control of her Elimination Round, Heat 2, against fellow North American representative Rubiana Brownell (CRI). Pinkerton’s signature backhand power led the way to a 7.33 and 13.63 heat total. The San Clemente, California competitor is looking to become the first woman to earn two World Junior Titles.
“It’s really tough with a lot of current out there, and I was on a bigger board just with so much water moving,” said Pinkerton. “I was looking for that wave that didn’t have too much of a bowl so I’d fall or too flat that that would keep me from getting a score. On my last wave, I went into the last turn with almost no speed, and my board whacked me in the knee, but luckily I’m okay and ready for the next heat.”
Former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Luana Silva (BRA) recovered brilliantly from her Opening Round upset. The 18-year-old’s backhand attack held its ground over Japan’s Nanaho Tsuzuki. Silva now looks for a straight shot to the Challenger Series by adding a World Junior Title to her name.
“I was a little indecisive on whether or not I should surf before being the first heat of the day, so I just went out there to get my feet wet,” said Silva. “It’s pretty tricky, so I was stoked to find a few; it’s really shifty, and I couldn’t even feel my board because my feet are so numb. But, you just push through it and get the job done.”
Pictured: Janire Etxabarri (EUK) survived her Elimination Round Heat in dominant form.Credit: © WSL / Morris
Europe No. 1 Janire Etxabarri (EUK) put on a commanding performance in the face of elimination, posting a 7.33 and 13.60 heat total. Her dominant forehand attack on the Seaside Reef lefthander moved her forward with plenty of momentum.
Also surviving the Elimination Round is Sara Wakita (JPN), who overpowered Encinitas’ own Ella McCaffray (USA). Rachel Presti (DEU), Zahli Kelly (AUS), and Daniella Rosas (PER) all keep their hunt toward a World Junior Title intact.
World-Class Performances From Alan Cleland, Kade Matson, Adur Amatriain, and More Light Up Elimination Round
North America’s No. 1 Alan Cleland (MEX) responded to facing elimination in defiant form, posting the event’s highest heat total thus far, a 17.80 against Australia’s threat Lennox Chell. Cleland earned his maiden WSL victory in 2022 at the Live Like Zander Junior Pro, which solidified his spot as an emerging North American threat, and he showcased that potential to the world today. “There’s a lot of swell in the water, and it’s super fun to be out there with only one other person out and just trading off,” said Cleland. “Toward the end of the heat, I got worked and just turned around to come in, but it feels good to advance. I was actually in Hawaii for about three months before this, so I didn’t surf many shortboards, but Timmy Patterson rushed some boards for me, and I was trying them all before the event, so I’m stoked it worked out.”
San Clemente, California’s own Jett Schilling, and Kade Matson took control of their respective battles and added their names to the Round of 16 draw.
Schilling’s ferocious forehand left Japan’s Tenshi Iwami in a combination situation, needing two new scores to match Schilling's impressive 15.24 heat total.
Matson’s long-awaited return to the jersey didn’t go to plan in his Opening Round heat, but his backhand attack led to a prominent 7.50 and excellent 8.93 to put Asia No. 1 Kian Martin (SWE) in a combination situation as time expired.
“My first heat, I had a complete shocker, and going back out here, I just wanted to be smarter and choose the right waves,” said Matson. “Eight months out of the water is really gnarly, but it’s made me appreciate it way more and just being able to compete again. I’m super thankful to be here and to WSL for the spot into this event.”
Pictured:Basque Country's Adur Amatriain unleashed his backhand to overcome elimination and move forward into the Round of 16.Credit: © WSL / Morris
Adding to Basque Country’s success, Adur Amatriain answered back to a tough first heat with a dominant forehand display. The 18-year-old posted an excellent 8.00 and 7.33 over Florida’s Tommy Coleman (USA), leaving him needing a near-perfect score. Now, Amatriain joins the likes of Etxabarri in the Round of 16 as they look to bring their country its first World Junior Title.
“There were a lot of bumps on the waves, and I had to find a way to get as many maneuvers as possible,” said Amatriain. “I made a few mistakes at the end of the waves, which I was pretty bummed about because those scores would’ve been much higher. We have a great group of Basque surfers, and we are a small community, but we travel together, and we’re here cheering each other on.”
Also notching vital Elimination Round victories, Luke Thompson (RSA), Brodi Sale (HAW), Saxon Reber (AUS), and Ryan Kainalo (BRA) all overpowered their way into the Round of 16 for their chance at clinching a spot into Finals Day.
Event organizers will reconvene Thursday, January 12, at 7:30 a.m. PST for a possible 8:05 a.m. PST start to the competition.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.
Women’s Elimination Round Results:
Heat 1: Luana Silva (BRA) 11.70 DEF. Nanaho Tsuzuki (JPN) 10.07
Heat 2: Rachel Presti (DEU) 7.66 DEF. Louise Lepront (RSA) 4.06
Heat 3: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 13.83 DEF. Rubiana Brownell (CRC) 4.26
Heat 4: Sara Wakita (JPN) 7.17 DEF. Ella McCaffray (USA) 6.16
Heat 5: Zahli Kelly (AUS) 10.60 DEF. Gemma Hanafey (RSA) 4.43
Heat 6: Janire Gonzalez Etxabarri (EUK) 13.60 DEF. Eweleiula Wong (HAW) 12.10
Heat 7: Daniella Rosas (PER) 12.00 DEF. Anon Matsuoka (JPN) 7.06
Heat 8: Sierra Kerr (AUS) 15.50 DEF. Puamakamae DeSoto (HAW) 9.43
Upcoming Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
Heat 1: Alyssa Spencer (USA) vs. Aelan Vaast (FRA)
Heat 2: Rachel Presti (DEU) vs. Laura Raupp (BRA)
Heat 3: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) vs. Janire Etxabarri (EUK)
Heat 4: Daniella Rosas (PER) vs. Sol Aguirre (PER)
Heat 5: Luana Silva (BRA) vs. Erin Brooks (CAN)
Heat 6: Francisca Veselko (PRT) vs. Sara Wakita (JPN)
Heat 7: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) vs. Sierra Kerr (AUS)
Heat 8: Zahli Kelly (AUS) vs. Ellie Harrison (AUS)
Men’s Elimination Round Results:
Heat 1: Saxon Reber (AUS) 12.00 DEF. Joel Vaughan (AUS) 10.33
Heat 2: Alan Cleland (MEX) 17.80 DEF. Lennox Chell (AUS) 13.66
Heat 3: Jett Schilling (USA) 15.24 DEF. Tenshi Iwami (JPN) 6.77
Heat 4: Kade Matson (USA) 16.43 DEF. Kian Martin (SWE) 9.50
Heat 5: Brodi Sale (HAW) 13.90 13.90 DEF. Noa Dupouy (FRA) 8.00
Heat 6: Luke Thompson (RSA) 12.27 vs. Bitor Garitaonandia (EUK) 3.67
Heat 7: Adur Amatriain (EUK) 15.33 DEF. Tommy Coleman (USA) 9.24
Heat 8: Ryan Kainalo (BRA) 13.66 DEF. Tide-Lee Ireland (RSA) 6.60
Upcoming Men’s Round of 16 Matchups:
Heat 1: Brodi Sale (HAW) vs. Taro Watanae (USA)
Heat 2: Luke Thompson (RSA) vs. Eli Hanneman (HAW)
Heat 3: Kauli Vaast (FRA) vs. Saxon Reber (AUS)
Heat 4: Kade Matson (USA) vs. Levi Slawson (USA)
Heat 5: Jett Schilling (USA) vs. Jarvis Earle (AUS)
Heat 6: Oscar Berry (AUS) vs. Caua Costa (BRA)
Heat 7: Adur Amatriain (EUK) vs. Jackson Bunch (HAW)
Heat 8: Alan Cleland (MEX) vs. Ryan Kainalo (BRA)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 WorldSurfLeague.com, 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 WorldSurfLeague.com.